Susan Joan “Sooki” Raphael of Topanga, CA passed peacefully on April 25th surrounded by friends, family, color, light, joy, and love. Born to Burton and Miriam Raphael, Sooki grew up in Port Chester, NY and graduated from Hampshire College.
Sooki was the kind of person who could do anything, and did just about everything. She learned to solo an airplane before she learned to drive. She was the New York City “Bat Lady” at 21. She picked up and sailed off to the Caribbean when someone needed an extra boat hand. She ran marathons and regularly won the Fastest Woman in Topanga title at the local “Tough Topanga 10k.” Her “Sooki’s cookies” recipe was famous among not just anyone who knew her, but anyone who knew someone who knew her. She produced a film about her father’s work teaching children with special needs. She was a zombie in the original Dawn of the Dead. She taught ceramics classes. She started a kids’ clothing business. She made wedding cakes that tasted as good as they looked. She made props for TV shows. She traveled the world as the personal assistant to one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. She wrote home with vivid tales and photographs that demonstrated the color and beauty of her travels in the most unique ways.
In her last two and a half years, Sooki started painting. And painting and painting. What came out of her brush was a feast of colors and stories that she had kept in her heart for years. She left her canvases as colorful as she led her life.
Sooki had strength and courage. She loved her family and was devoted to her grandchildren. She loved her friends, and supported them with all she had to give. Her love and passion and beauty will continue to live in her paintings, and in all of us who were privileged to have entered her world.
Sooki’s loving memory will live on in her husband Ken Wheeland, son Cody Wheeland, his wife Sara Wheeland and their children Anja and Oliver, her daughter Alison Villalobos and husband Luke Villalobos, her mother Miriam Raphael, her sisters Judy Raphael and Ruth Raphael, her stepbrothers Michael Fishman and Philip Fishman, and stepfather Ted Fishman an amazing circle of friends and extended family. A Celebration of Life will take place in Topanga, CA on August 21, 2021. Donations can be made in her name to Pancan.org or Seasave.org/oceanofsooki.