Susan Byrd Tipton Austin Dies at 61

Susan Byrd Tipton Austin, 61, died Tuesday, January 31, 2023, at her home in Waynesville, North Carolina. She suffered from Lewy body dementia after she had successful beaten stage-three breast cancer.

Susan Byrd Tipton Austin (Submitted photo)
Susan Byrd Tipton Austin (Submitted photo)

Susan had lived on St. Thomas. She formed many friendships on the island, including with numerous beloved people who frequented or worked at Coki Point Beach. She worked for a short period of time at ReUse Emporium, and enjoyed visiting and making friends at Tillett Gardens, Limetree Beach, and Abi Beach.

Susan was born January 13, 1962, in Asheville, North Carolina, and attended the University of Kentucky on a music scholarship. She was an accomplished flute player.

Susan had been co-owner and publisher of the weekly Yancey County News newspaper in Burnsville, North Carolina, a newspaper that existed for several years in an attempt to provide that community with legitimate and unbiased news. Based on their work, she and her husband, Jonathan Austin, equally earned the 2011 E.W. Scripps Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment; the 2012 Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism, given by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky; and the 2012 Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism, given by The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.

Susan had worked for many years in technical construction sales and support in the Charlotte, North Carolina, region, and she was very proud of what she did to provide technical assistance in helping make safer many urban high-rises, hospitals, apartment buildings and schools.

Susan is survived by Jonathan, of the home; her sons, Jason Ridenhour and his wife, Becca Rainey Ridenhour, of Davidson, North Carolina, and Michael Ridenhour and fiancé Rachel Zarkin of Raleigh, North Carolina; a sister, Patricia Tipton of Mills River, North Carolina; a brother, Ned Tipton of Norwalk, Connecticut; three step-daughters, Sarah Austin of Decatur, Georgia, and Rachel Mongno and Rebekah Austin, of Asheville, North Carolina; six grandchildren: Henry, Kennedy and Madelyn Ridenhour of Davidson, North Carolina, and Elizabeth, Ruth and Julia Slaven of Decatur, Georgia; an aunt, numerous cousins and other family, and countless friends.

A memorial gathering will be held in Western North Carolina.