Peter W. Sushka, Jr. passed away September 6, 2023. He was the special friend and loving husband of Mary Jae Abbitt Sushka for 53 years; father of Peter Kevin Sushka with whom he had a special, caring, and devoted lifetime relationship; and father-in-law of Anna Hammarskjold who came into his life over 15 years ago providing so much pleasure. He was the son of Peter Sushka, Sr. and Marie Martusevich of Alexandria, Virginia, both of whose parents emigrated from Eastern Europe to the US via Ellis Island in 1911. His special sister and brother-in-law Dr. Marie E. Sushka and Dr. Myron B. Slovin are retired Economists living in Paris. His grandson Justin Lex Hammarskjold works in Stockholm and played a memorable part in Peter’s life. MJ’s twin brothers Bruce and Ben Abbitt knew Peter before he met her-a unique family story.
Peter was born on July 13, 1940, at Providence Hospital in Washington D.C. He recalled rolling Easter eggs on the White House lawn with Eleanor Roosevelt; and, watching from his father’s shoulders, President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1945 funeral procession as it left the capital city for Hyde Park N.Y. His 1958 graduation from the Alexandria VA School System culminated in an appointment as Midshipman to the US Naval Academy, class of 1962. Peter recalled the Brigade marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in the Inaugural Parade of President John F. Kennedy on a cold blustery snowy slushy day, all watching as poet Robert Frost’s notes flew off the podium, causing him to extemporize so gracefully. A 1976 Masters of Science in Management from the Monterey Naval Postgraduate School followed his Bachelor of Science from the Academy in Annapolis. As a US Navy Ensign he was stationed in the Caribbean and on underwater operations during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He retired October 1967 after serving aboard several nuclear and diesel submarines; his last assignment was Manager of the SPUK (Special Projects UK) Program. He and the family also enjoyed a 3-year assignment in London England as Liaison Officer to Prime Minister Margaret Thacker’s defense staff under the Special Relationship Agreement between the US and UK. Upon retirement the Navy awarded him a Meritorious Service Metal.
Over a twenty-year period, he and MJ restored from scratch an 1832 and 1882 bi-period house situated on 23 acres in Scottsville VA, carefully bringing it to Virginia Landmark status and listing on the National Register of Historic Homes. High Meadows operated as a well-respected successful local landmark country inn, restaurant, vineyard (first pinot noir grapes grown in VA), and B&B-the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Agriculture and Enology accorded High Meadows over a dozen Virginia Winery Awards for supporting the state's fledgling wine industry. Over 200,000 US and international visitors enjoyed hospitality, food, and ambiance at High Meadows Country Inn Restaurant and Vineyard in southern Albemarle County.
Peter often visited MJ on her USAID/US State Department international foreign advisory assignments. His friendly smile and love of adventure provided an additional positive dimension to her work with local counterparts.
Education is key. Peter and MJ partnered to provide scholarships to several young Easter European women, recent graduates of Bulgaria’s public school system to attend MJ’s Alma Mater Furman University. In 2015 together they also funded and constructed Baba School, a K-12 school located in Bamyan, Afghanistan where girls and boys attend class together high in the Hindu Kush Mountains-Marco Polo’s “roof of the world”. The school is powered by solar energy panels-first "green" school in the country. Baba School opened with 25 students; it is now self-sustaining with over 400 students. Although controlled by Taliban, it continues to educate students; in an unusual twist girl’s older than sixth grade continue to attend.
After retirement Peter's love of travel took him back to London. In 2007 he and MJ found and maintained a second home in the North of their favorite city in the world-Hampstead. As well, working with PARSA, the IRC and other non-governmental organizations, Peter and the family sponsored several Afghan families to evacuate Afghanistan and/or settle in the US or abroad, often using the US Custom Bureau's Special Immigration Visa (SIV) program. All the children of MJ’s former Afghan partner interpreters are now successfully integrated into US culture, have maintained steady A's, been accepted to Virginia State Colleges and Universities; some serve in the US Military.
Appreciating and engaging in our local cultural activities, Peter sat on the Board of the Charlottesville Opera; since 2015 the family has supported the Charlottesville Opera and Charlottesville Ballet. After the early 21st C completion of The Paramount Theatre’s restoration, Peter donated time as a “volunteer”, motivating MJ to become a current board member. Participation in the arts and learning history often go hand in hand; thus, support of Highland Home of President James Monroe has long been a passion.
Born between the “greatest generation” and “baby boomers” Peter followed a path of early military service and dedication, then purposely extended his love to many other interests and activities-gardening, pets, exercise, travel, and walking-along with music, opera, dance reading, theatre, and history. He had a rich and rewarding long life.
He had been unwell for some time. One of his greatest retirement pleasures was watching the family’s active front yard bird feeder from his favorite indoor chair, while sharing his thoughts and book reading stories with visiting friends. His family offers sincere thanks to his excellent physician team, especially Dr. Bruce Clemmons, at Martha Jefferson Sentara for their professional long-term support, as well as short term thanks to the fine folks at Hospice of the Piedmont for over four months of home care, empathy, and love-provided to both Peter and MJ.
A celebration of Life will be held at Highland Home of President James Monroe located at 2050 James Monroe Parkway 22902 on Wednesday, October 4 at 3:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please send memorial contributions to the Charlottesville Opera (www.charlottesvilleopera.org), The Paramount Theater ( www.theparamount.net ), and Highland (www.highland.org).
For additional information or condolences to the family, please contact Hill and Wood at www.hillandwood.com, 201 North 1st Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902.