Montgomery County woman finds courage after abusive childhood, mother's murder  

A portion of Susan Hathaway-Saurman's memoir will benefit Laurel House, a domestic violence organization.

ByHeather Grubola WPVI logo
Friday, November 17, 2023
Montco woman finds courage after abusive childhood, mother's murder  
Montgomery County woman finds courage after abusive childhood, mother's murder  

EAGLEVILLE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- 6abc has another installment of a new series called Hope's Heartbeat. These are stories of people who have faced immense life challenges and have channeled them into paying it forward.

Susan Hathaway-Saurman suffered a horrific childhood, a life-changing loss and a journey to finally healing.

Her mother Bernadette Hathaway, affectionately known as "Bunnie", was on the local theater circuit where she was a constant presence with her husband, Byron.

Off-stage the couple lived in Lower Merion, living what appeared a charmed life with their three children.

"From the outside looking in we seemed to be a well-to-do family, recognized and liked," said Hathaway-Saurman.

The truth, though, was far uglier.

"My mother was abused by my father who was very mentally and physically abusive to her and to us children," said Hathaway-Saurman.

She says the abuse continually escalated until one day her dad snapped.

"My dad tried to kill my mom and tried to strangle her," Hathaway-Saurman recalled.

Her mother fled with the kids, filed for divorce and won custody. All of which only fueled his fury. In April 1981, he was waiting outside their son's church day care.

"Next thing you know he's chasing after her with a gun and he was shooting her numerous times and she fell," Hathaway-Saurman recalled. "He knelt down beside her, reloaded the gun and fired several more rounds into her head. She died on the lawn there that day."

Hathaway-Saurman was 14 years old at the time. Her father, then 50, would be charged, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

But amid a lifetime grappling with the searing pain of her story, Hathaway-Saurman found enough lessons to fill the pages of a memoir titled "The Courage I Learned". A portion of the proceeds benefit Laurel House, a domestic violence organization in Montgomery County.

"They inspired me greatly. They were a huge source of positivity knowing that they're trying so desperately to help individuals, victims, survivors," said Hathaway-Saurman.

As for the word "courage," she says that's what comes when you confront what many instead choose to ignore.

Hathaway-Saurman's father died in prison in 2020 without ever expressing remorse for the murder of her mother.

And she is continuing to persevere, currently undergoing treatment for stage four ovarian cancer. But she's filled with the same hope that got her through other incredibly hard times.

She is the very definition of Hope's Heartbeat.

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