I love words. One of my favorite words is the Yiddish slang word, “macher.” The word is complimentary and refers to anyone who “gets things done.” I love to surround myself with machers (it makes me look good), and one of my favorites is Susan Jimenez. This grandmother of eight (she’ll kill me for that) simply cannot sit still!
The story begins for this Rehoboth Beach resident and businesswoman at a small religious college. Though her liberal arts curriculum at that time could not have foreseen the digital revolution, the resulting self-discipline would make her a pioneering force in business and technology.
In the mid-‘60s when she and her husband immersed themselves in the social upheaval of the day; helping to organize marches on Washington, D.C., most notably the “Resurrection City” of 1968. Shortly afterward, her “flower child” persona, combined with what she describes as being “fearless of things; an idea person,” led her to form her first non-profit organization, Community of Hope. Still going strong today, it provides transitional housing and other services to homeless and low-income individuals and families.
In what she calls her “spare time,” (as if she didn’t have enough to do), Susan also taught second through sixth grades in Montgomery County, MD until she gave birth not only to her first child, but also to her second non-profit, the Acorn Hill School in Maryland. The school still exists, carrying on her mission of full and free development of the capabilities of children.
Susan’s marriage wound down in the mid-‘80s, but she wasn’t finished being a social pioneer. She met a young woman named Brenda, and in spite of the obstacles they could have encountered, Susan won custody of her kids and together they lived as an “alternative family” back before anybody even knew what that was.
When she was 38, Jimenez took a job at the Department of Defense. The life-and-death significance of the job meshed perfectly with her work ethic. She absorbed concepts of telecommunications and information technology from the same people who would be instrumental in the development of the Internet itself. After climbing over six pay-scale grades in record time, she attended a six-month national security seminar at Harvard University and was awarded a civilian medal by Colin Powell for her technical contributions to Desert Storm. During that time she graduated as Valedictorian from a two and-a-half year program designed to groom women for high-level posts in government leadership. To this day, she still returns to speak to new graduates.
Susan took part in the formation of Women in Technology, a non-profit dedicated to the integration of women into the “boy’s club” of IT and was the first woman to be elected president of the over 4,000-member Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.
In the early ‘90s, destiny smiled yet again on Susan Jimenez. At a conference in San Diego, she happened to be seated next to Cathy Benson (also a talented professional in her own right). Cathy would eventually become her life partner and accompany her to Rehoboth Beach.
Around 1998, the Boeing Corporation charged Susan with the task of familiarizing government officials with Boeing’s massive 777 Jetliner. During that time, she was also presented with the FED 100 Award, as one of the nation’s top 100 federal executives. Jimenez left Boeing to take a vice president position with Science Application International Corporation, bringing U.S. technological know-how to pre-NATO countries. In keeping with the vagaries of the fledgling IT industry, Susan was laid off (along with thousands of others). But this certified macher saw the silver lining around that otherwise dark cloud.
Both she and Cathy had vacation homes here in Rehoboth Beach, and Susan moved here to create Guardian Property Management; applying her unique skills to a field which, up to that time, had been devoid of technology. Homeowners’ associations and communities flocked to this forward-looking entity, and she and her staff of 27 were managing over 70 communities when the opportunity arose to sell the company. TPW Management, a full-service property management company based in Vermont, recognized the value in what Susan had created, and her influence has been a part of TPW’s success here in Rehoboth.
Retirement for her means enjoying time with Cathy (in wedded bliss, by the way), relaxing in the tranquility of yoga, and volunteering for the betterment of Rehoboth’s Epworth United Methodist Church. Susan sings at the services there, and has been instrumental in the creation of the new Columbarium, the latest addition to the Epworth Cemetery.
She’s also actively involved with the wildly popular EatingRehoboth and EatingLewes walking food tours, where she is the lead guide for the Lewes restaurant and history tours. Her five-Star reviews on TripAdvisor attest to the entertainment value she brings to the three-hour excursions.
While other grandmothers of eight might be seeking out the ideal rocking chair, Susan’s zipping around town in her convertible. “I’ve got to keep busy,” she smiles. And this macher is showing no signs of slowing down.
Bob Yesbek is a Rehoboth Beach resident. Email Bob Yesbek