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NORMAL Susan Lynn Hodges Nierstheimer, 56, of West Lafayette, Ind., died Monday (Dec. 19, 2005) after battling cancer since 2003.

Born in Kankakee on June 20, 1949, she married Norm Nierstheimer on Aug. 9, 1969. He survives.

She is also survived by two children, Eric of Kearney, Neb., and Laura of Lafayette, Ind. In addition, she leaves a granddaughter, Mattie Grace Nierstheimer; her mother, Grace Hodges Dillman, Normal; a brother, Retired Lt. Col. James (Susan) W. Hodges, Dumfries, Va.; her stepfather, Dr. Beryl Dillman; her father-in-law, Carl Nierstheimer; brothers-in-law, Ray (Sue) Nierstheimer, Vernon Hills, and David (Betty) Nierstheimer, Bloomington; and her dearest friend, Vivian (Cal) Hubbard, Normal.

Her father, John W. Hodges, preceded her in death.

Most recently, Susan was an assistant professor in literacy and language at Purdue University. Previously, Susan taught for a number of years in the elementary public schools, after receiving her bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Illinois State University. In 1996, she earned her doctorate in literacy and language from Purdue University. Susan taught literacy courses to future teachers at Purdue for two years and then at Illinois State University for five years before returning to Purdue in 2000.

She was especially interested in helping children who experience difficulty learning to read. As a result, her dissertation focused on the Reading Recovery program, an international organization that focuses on first graders who are struggling readers. She co-authored a reading textbook for college students, in addition to publishing articles in various reading journals. Susan had a profound effect on her college students with her directness, humor and compassion, inspiring them to be the best teachers possible for the next generation.

Susan was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Lafayette, Ind. Before moving to this area, she served as a church organist as well as a Sunday school teacher for many years in Nazarene and Lutheran churches throughout the years. Her faith was an important part of her life.

Susan and Norm were fortunate to have traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world. These experiences created for her a sense of a world community, especially with her contact with children.

While being on disability the last two years, Susan volunteered as a tutor for the Purdue men's basketball team. It allowed her to form friendships with student athletes, while assisting them in their educational development. This was a rewarding experience for her as it combined her love of people, learning and sports.

There will be a private burial Wednesday at Park Hill Cemetery, Bloomington. A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Thursday at Trinity United Methodist Church, 404 N. Sixth St., Lafayette, Ind. The Rev. Jacob Williams will officiate with the Rev. Jon Nelson assisting. It was Susan's wish that all her family and friends share in a buffet dinner immediately following the memorial service at the Lafayette Holiday Inn Select.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Susan Nierstheimer Memorial Book Fund, which will provide children's books for first grade students participating in Reading Recovery. Make checks payable to The Purdue Foundation, 403 W. Wood St., West Lafayette, IN 47907-2007. For State Farm associates, matching gift funds are available, if appropriate State Farm forms are used.

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