AEGiS-Chicago Tribune: Susan Bergman 1957-2006: Author, writing teacher: Her 1994 book 'Anonymity' was conceived during a period of self-reflection after learning her father had a secret homosexual life and was dying of AIDS Chicago TribuneImportant note: Information in this article was accurate in 2006. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date.
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Susan Bergman 1957-2006: Author, writing teacher: Her 1994 book 'Anonymity' was conceived during a period of self-reflection after learning her father had a secret homosexual life and was dying of AIDS

Chicago Tribune - January 2, 2006
Barbara Sherlock, bsherlock@tribune.com


Susan Bergman, author of the 1994 book "Anonymity," revealed herself through her writing, and found her solace there.

"She expressed herself most beautifully and best on the page," said her husband, Judson. "She always created beauty of what life dealt her.

"She was gentle, beautiful, fiercely intelligent and very brave. She was a risk-taker--she would always place it all on the line for whatever she was doing, whether it was writing, relationships, family or art."

Mrs. Bergman, 48, of Chicago died Sunday, Jan. 1, in her second home in Barrington, after a three year battle with brain cancer.

She began reflecting on her past after discovering in 1983 that her dying father, Don Heche, had a secret life as a homosexual and that he would become one of the first victims of AIDS.

Begun as her doctoral dissertation, "Anonymity" was the result of that self-reflection.

"He was dying of AIDS and he wasn't Haitian or an intravenous drug user," she said in a 1994 Tribune interview. "Having to face a month before he died the realization that my father was a homosexual or bisexual ... that was so shocking and there was no suspicion of that in our lives, not even in my mother's, who had been married to him for 25 years."

That knowledge prompted self-examination by family members, she said, and she came to a new understanding of everyone in her family. One of her sisters is the actress Anne Heche.

"I think I and my sisters started looking around for a real father in some ways. ... Then I realized that probably nobody had that father, that people just have a dream that is never fully developed."

Mrs. Bergman also was an editor of the anthology "Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith," a contributing writer to the collection "Tremor of Bliss: Contemporary Writers on the Saints" and a contributing editor to many magazines and literary publications including Books and Culture and North American Review.

She also wrote the soon-to-be-published novel "Buried Life."

She was a teacher and lecturer in literature and writing at several venues including Northwestern and New York Universities and the University of Notre Dame.

She was born in Bloomington, Ind., and raised in Ohio. She graduated from high school in Aurora, Ohio, received a bachelor's degree in art from Wheaton College in 1979 and a doctorate in literature with a specialization in 20th Century poetry from Northwestern in 1992.

She met her husband at Wheaton College and the couple married in 1979. Another classmate, Jill Carter, became her lifelong friend.

"Susan was a woman of great depth and grace," Carter said. "If you asked her many friends about her, you would quickly find a consistent theme--that she was devoted to honesty, passionate about her faith and her family, and committed to the right things.

"Her smile was contagious and her conversations always meaningful. She could command a room when she walked in by her sheer beauty and elegant demeanor."

In 2000, Mrs. Bergman and Carter founded PreviewPort, an online market for readers that offered author information, writing forums and electronic books.

The company's future was placed on hold after Mrs. Bergman's cancer diagnosis.

An opera enthusiast, arts lover, competitive tennis player, and avid reader, Mrs. Bergman served on the board of many civic organizations including Poetry Foundation and Christian International Scholarship Foundation.

Her brother, Nathan Heche, preceded her in death, dying shortly after her father in an automobile accident.

Besides her husband and sister, she is survived by two daughters, Elise and Natalie; two sons, Elliot and Bennet; her mother, Nancy Heche; and another sister, Abigail Heche.

A memorial service will be held at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in Christ Church, 100 N. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest.


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