Susan Thomson Perry, adoptee-rights advocate

Susan T. Perry
Susan T. Perry
Posted: April 10, 2014

Susan Thomson Perry, 63, of Cherry Hill, an advocate for the rights of adoptees, died of melanoma Monday, April 7, at her home.

On Feb. 27, the New Jersey Senate and Assembly approved the Adoptees' Birthright Bill, which would allow adoptees older than 18 to have access to their original birth certificates.

It awaits the approval of Gov. Christie.

Mrs. Perry, herself an adoptee, worked with the New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education (NJCARE) for more than a decade to have such legislation approved, her husband, Tyson, said.

"Even before the bill was brought up," he said, "she had gained confidence that, even though adoption reform might not happen in her lifetime, she was confident that change was coming."

Her husband noted that, "as with many civil rights issues, it takes a long time for change to occur."

Mrs. Perry did not celebrate the passage, he said. "She cautioned the rest of us in the New Jersey CARE community not to be overly optimistic."

Mrs. Perry was adopted by a Haddonfield couple in 1950 when she was 3 months old. She graduated from Haddonfield Memorial High School in 1968 and earned a bachelor's degree in literature, cum laude, at Muhlenberg College in 1971, accelerating her studies to marry her boyfriend.

She taught English for a year at Lenape High School and then taught part-time "for seven or eight different years," at what is now Rowan University, as well as doing public relations "for five or six years" for the Evesham School District, her husband said.

From the 1990s to the early 2000s, he said, she operated Write Stuff, a marketing firm that produced promotional materials for, among other businesses, the Melrose Diner in South Philadelphia.

Mrs. Perry's successful search for her birth mother began in May 1997 when she was diagnosed with stage II melanoma, he said. She made contact with her birth mother in the fall of 2003, but the birth mother decided not to have a relationship. Tyson said the woman did have a brief phone conversation in which she said, "I've always loved you in my heart."

Mrs. Perry did make contact with her birth sisters. The two often visited Mrs. Perry and wrote her almost every day during the last eight months, after the stage IV melanoma had been diagnosed, Tyson said.

Besides her husband and birth sisters, Mrs. Perry is survived by daughters Kate Penberthy and Jenn Gentlesk; a brother; her birth brother; and six grandchildren.

A visitation was set for 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 10, at the First Presbyterian Church, 20 Kings Highway E., Haddonfield, with a memorial service there at 11 a.m. Friday, April 11.

Donations may be sent to the Melanoma Research Program, Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Civic Center Blvd., Philadelphia 19104.

Condolences may be offered to the family at

610-313-8134 @WNaedele

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