The plaque unveiled Saturday morning outside the Fairfax County Animal Shelter says it all:
"Though her years were short, her contributions are many and her legacy, large. The citizens of Fairfax County will forever remember Dr. Susan Hall, and her life will serve as a shining standard for generations to come."
HALL, A VETERINARIAN at Centreville Animal Hospital on Route 29, was known far and wide for rescuing, treating and caring for animals — domestic, exotic or wild. And although she worked in the corporate world for awhile, in her mid-30s, she went back to school, received a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine and achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian.
Tragically, she died of cancer on Christmas Eve 1999, at age 45. And those gathered Saturday to honor her memory and dedicate the dog-exercise areas at the shelter, recalled her fondly.
"She was someone very special to us, and she left her imprint on all of us and on how we treat and care for animals in Fairfax County," said Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), who was also a close friend of Hall's. "Thank you all for coming out to remember and pay tribute to her."
Hall was Sully District's representative on and chairman of the county's Animal Services Advisory Commission, for several years. And, said Frey, "She loved what she was doing and always gave me grief that we had nowhere to walk and exercise the dogs at the shelter."
So two years ago, he obtained money from the county budget to build four, fenced-in, exercise areas there. And on April 1, they were dedicated in her name.
"Susan worked very hard to make the shelter something we could be proud of, with innovative and creative programming," said Frey. "And the police department has done a wonderful job since taking over the running of the shelter."
Dr. Fred Garrison, for whom Hall worked at Centreville Animal Hospital, said it was his privilege to know her in many capacities. "Cancer took her from us too soon," he said. "She graduated from veterinary school in 1990 and was diagnosed in 1991. But she taught us all how to live and to stop and smell the flowers."
Hall was also a savior to any injured animal she came across. Said Garrison: "Many times she'd come to work in a slip because she'd put her dress around a wounded animal [she'd found on the road on the way in."
ALSO SPEAKING Saturday was Melissa Klein, a friend of Hall's and a colleague on the Animal Services Advisory Commission. Frey proposed the commission in the mid-1990s, and he, Klein and Hall helped found it. Thanking Frey and everyone else who attended the ceremony, Klein said Hall would be "so proud and absolutely thrilled" about the dog runs.
"I consider her a personal hero," she said. "I'd bring kittens to the animal hospital, and she'd keep them for herself." She also recalled eating chicken at Hall's house and watching in amazement as her hostess took the meat off the bones so she could feed it to her hedgehogs in the basement.
Debbie Sliter, a longtime employee at Centreville Animal Hospital, also related a story about Hall. "We were driving to a wedding in West Virginia, on I-81, and she saw a turtle crossing the highway," said Sliter. "She pulled the car right over to save this turtle and get it across the road."
Mike Lucas, the county's chief Animal Control officer, said Hall was one of the few veterinarians who'd come to animal-cruelty calls. "We had a hoarding-kennel case, and she came to the scene, spent hours there and came to court with us," he said. "She was a great friend to Animal Control."
The Rev. Howard Kempsell of St. John's Episcopal Church moved to Centreville in 1994, Hall lived next door to the church, and he remembered how she and her dogs played together outside. "She died much too young, and right above her tombstone is that of her mother — with a portion of the prayer of St. Francis [of Assisi, the patron saint of animals]," he said. "So [her love of animals] carried from generation to generation."
Kempsell then read a passage by author Paul Gallico, writing of St. Francis' love for even the tiniest creatures — even earthworms — and his care and courtesy for all living things. Like St. Francis, who died at 44, Kempsell said Hall believed in being kind and generous. And as her plaque was unveiled, he said, "This is a reminder that, not only do many people remember Susan, but what was dear to her heart."
Amrit Daryanani, current Sully rep on the Animal Services Advisory Commission, said Hall was her veterinarian. "I remember her deep and quiet compassion," she said. "She really lived her life according to the principles she believed in and truly exemplified them."
Daryanani said Hall "lived from a deep place of spirit, and her voice is still alive in the shelter and in the commission. And I hope this inspires people to take on the difficult work of caring for animals because people can make a difference."
Hall was also president of the Blue Ridge Bull Terrier Club, belonged to the Miniature Bull Terrier Club of America and bred and exhibited these dogs.
CHERYL YOST, who got Hall into bull terrier rescue, called her "incredibly empathetic to animals. She'd pull over if she saw a possum hit and check it to see if it was a female carrying babies."
Chalet Woods' Connie Thomas, treasurer of the Blue Ridge Bull Terrier Club, also had a memory of Hall. Said Thomas: "I once called her about a snake I saw, and she came and got it."
All in all, added Frey, "Although we lost her, people like that never leave us. That's why I wanted a permanent reminder so people would know her and the work she'd done. I know Susan will look down and see all the dogs playing in the runs and be pleased."