Susan Elizabeth Winstead, daughter of Susan Marguerite Howle Winstead of Fearrington Village, and the late John Merritt Winstead, artist, designer, actress, poet, film critic, director, muse, fashion design maven, famous internationally for designing unique bridal and formal wear known to capture an individual’s essence and inspirations, and close friend to thousands of awe-struck admirers, flew away on a zephyr of fairy dust from this realm on Jan. 3, 2021 in Harris County, Texas. Elizabeth, a graduate of Person County High School and North Carolina State University in design and film studies, was well-known for being kind to all, quick-witted, fun to be around and always eager to chat with both friends and distant relatives. She leaves behind a large dysfunctional family she was very proud of, including her Mother, a host of aunts and uncles, a plethora of cousins and two grandmothers over 90.
One of her friends told her Mother recently that Elizabeth was such a well-rounded person that she could heatedly argue politics for hours and then accept an invitation to lunch with alacrity.
The worst part, if one could arrive at the worst part, of her untimely early death, is not having any more literary-jeweled letters and poems to unexpectedly jet in from her ever again. She was incredibly personally generous and would send lovingly selected letters and cards from her travels all over the world.
She was so well read that she was known for embarrassing scholars with her sage plot suggestions, or to tell you what was wrong with your literary analysis, your outfit, literarily or fashion-wise, or to give instructions about how to properly hold your mouth when acting a part or reading the world the riot act.
She never met a dog she didn’t love (except her Mother’s) although she had a rescued cat she constantly showered with attention until she was forced by a move to give him away, which broke her heart, and therefore, she never had another animal housemate although she lusted after all strays.
People could have said (and, yes, they did a lot) that they broke the mold after Elizabeth was born, but they had already said it so much about her Mother that a new much-improved mold had to be developed just for destruction after Elizabeth’s visit within it. Her grandparents, Betsy Childers, dance, bridge and golf trophy winner, and the late Thomas L. Howle, a noted chemist and expert witness for the chemical industry as well as also a dancer, bridge player and golfer, brought their own unique molds with them wherever they traveled, and she adored their ability to imprint their style on their surroundings for the adoring masses. She said many times that she’d never be able to match the good feeling that they brought to a room no matter how much she had graced it. Although multitudes disagreed.
No one loved a joke, prank or an unexpected pratfall more than she. She was always game for the “food fight.” Especially if the innuendo starting it was so subtle or trailblazingly novel that the object couldn’t figure it out for a fortnight.
She was an easy mark for any charity for the needy, both animal and human, that required a passionate advocate, loved her family and friends unreservedly, and was loved wholeheartedly back in turn.
How could her heart have failed? If any organ in her lovely body had failed it couldn’t have been her heart. It never failed.
Instead of flowers, Elizabeth would be pleased if friends or well wishers would perform a meaningful act of kindness for one of nature’s unfortunate souls, human or animal. Two would please her even more.
She and her Mother shared a love of 60’s Motown music, wild and balletic dancing, and aesthetically and philosophically pleasing movies, especially Monty Python comedies. The first book she read all the way through was “Catch 22” in the 2nd grade, and read it first to her Mother to prove that she could read any book in her Mother’s library. She even went so far as to memorize most of the first chapter, and would repeat it for decades at the slightest encouragement. Later that year her teacher accosted her Mother at PTA to congratulate her for having such a thoughtful daughter who had taken the time to encourage him to read “Watership Down,” making him a fan of it for life, urging all his friends and students to read it, and then, when recommending it to her, learning that her Mother had already read it at her daughter’s insistence.
A further literary vignette occurred later that year when Elizabeth informed her Mother that she had begun “The Lord of the Rings” series and was in love with it and Tolkien, and that she was so excited about it that her Mother could read her book at night while Elizabeth slept if she wanted to share what she was reading. It really got her goat (and she complained about it for years) when her Mother’s reading not only passed hers by, but she never forgave her she said (or ever stopped telling strangers about it) when her Mother finished the third book before she had read the last page of the second one.
Elizabeth grew up to be one of the best-read people anyone who met her had ever known probably (or at least that’s what they told her Mother) and a pure conversational delight to all who engaged her about literature or the world of ideas.
She took the most sheer pleasure in her travel to fashion shows and sometimes vacations in London, Paris, Rome, New York, Atlanta and San Francisco. She rarely met a stranger who didn’t become a friend.
Her new residence is undoubtedly filled with love, laughter, witty conversation and all her friends who went ahead to prepare a comfy place for her. As “Elizabethtown,” winds down, “Freebird” is playing and everyone in the place is dancing and envisioning the gathering party. Watch it and remember her warmth, rich hearty laughter, joy in being alive and the most fun person in any group anywhere.
She loved the beach, living in Florida at several beaches for over 10 years, not to mention her love for the French Riviera, always the sand-in-my-shoes girl who could recommend the best restaurants and clubs. She adored all water sports, including swimming, surfing, sailing and parasailing, grinning as she flew by, caught in the cross currents, with the wind flipping through her hair. Sail on, most loved one, intrepid sailor. You are sorely missed.
Elizabeth’s favorite book:
“I will make you a present of a secret.”
“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”
“If someone loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, ‘somewhere my flower is there . . .’”
“And if you should come upon this spot, please do not hurry on. Wait for a time, exactly under the star. Then, if a little man appears, who laughs, who has golden hair and who refuses to answer questions, you will know who he is. If this should happen, please comfort me. Send me word that he has come back.”
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
— Antoine de Saint Exupery
“The Little Prince”