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Susan Tarbell

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death September 29, 2000 of Susan A. Tarbell of the Physical Oceanography Department. Susan died at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She was 57.

Susan was a Senior Research Assistant in the Physical Oceanography Department, working with Nelson Hogg and others on advanced data processing for current meters and other instruments on subsurface moorings. She managed, designed and implemented software for the group, and had been working for some time transferring archive data from the VAX system toward an online data archive and retrieval system.

She was born October 13, 1942 and graduated from Wallingford High School in Wallingford, VT, in 1960. She briefly attended the University of Vermont and Rutland Business College in Rutland, VT, before joining Montgomery Ward and Company as a credit department bookkeeper. After several years she joined National Survey group, a mapping organization, in Chester, VT, as a final edit assistant supervisor, working for the firm until 1966.

Susan joined the Institution staff in October 1966 as a laboratory assistant in the Physical Oceanography Department, working with Ferris Webster on data processing for moored buoys. She was promoted in 1968 to Research Assistant and worked with many in the department through the years, including Mel Briscoe, Nick Fofonoff, Bill Schmitz, Dick Payne, Bob Heinmiller, Jim Luyten and most recently Nelson Hogg. Among the first women at WHOI to go to sea routinely in the early 1970s, Susan helped compile the first manual for women scientists at sea in the 1970s and also authored and co-authored a number of technical publications on moored array data. She spoke about some of her experiences at a “Women at Sea” panel discussion in 1998.

Department colleagues often noted that Susan’s quality control and editorial talents were “first class and quite unique” and “as a result the Buoy Group may have the most carefully edited current meter data available anywhere.” Her length and breadth of experience, attention to detail, motivation and sense of responsibility about her work were often cited by colleagues as critical to the data processing success of the Buoy Group, her talents in transferring this data to more advanced computer storage and retrieval systems in recent years deemed “irreplaceable.”

She is survived by her mother, Ruth Tarbell, of Wallingford, Vermont; three sisters, Kate Fredette and Julia Tarbell of Wallingford, and Leslie Tarbell of West Pawlet, Vermont; five brothers, Nicky, Jamie and Dale Tarbell of Rutland, Vermont, and Edwin and Glenn Tarbell of Wallingford; and several nieces, nephews and cousins. She was the daughter of the late Charles Tarbell, who died in 1970.

A family service will be held in Vermont on her birthday, October 13. A celebration of Susan’s life will be held Friday, October 20, at 1:00 p.m. at the First Congregational Church on the Village Green in Falmouth, MA. Memorial contributions in lieu of flowers may be made to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney Street, Boston, 02115 or to The Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands, P.O. Box 65, Falmouth, MA 02541.