Inside the _____

Inside the Teaching of Susan Lopez Deoliveira

Susan Lopez Deoliveira
Written by Adam Bowles

This is one of a series of stories we are sharing to show what's inside CubeSmart. You not only get a peek inside our customer's storage unit, but also a peek inside what is important to them. Thank you to Susan Lopez Deoliveira, customer of our CubeSmart store in Boston,  for sharing her story with us.

Susan Lopez Deoliveira twice moved away from Boston, the city she grew up in and spent much of her teaching career. She spent 14 years in Denver. And she recently lived in Boca Raton, Florida, for three-and-a-half years, where she worked as a realtor. But each time she returned to the Northeast.

"It's beautiful," she said of Boca Raton. "But I decided Massachusetts was my home. If God is sending me a message, it's, ‘This is home.' It's everything. It's not just my daughters. It's people I know. It's the neighborhoods. It's the food. It's the smell as you're walking along the beach."

Susan shared her story with us during a visit in July to our Boston store at 150 William F. McClellan Highway just minutes away from Logan International Airport. Susan, who returned to Boston from Florida in May, is keeping her furnishings at our store while she rents an apartment in Revere and looks for a home.

Susan grew up near the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, a predominantly Irish, one-square-mile neighborhood of Boston where home values have since soared to about $1 million or more, she said.

"I saw everything I didn't like about life," she said. "That's why I was always outside looking for something else…  It turned me off that so many people believed the world began and ended there. I love to travel. Read. Different cultures."

Susan described her childhood as a carousel of dysfunction that she finally got off. Unlike her experience, she ensured that her own home for her children was "loving, warm, and welcoming."

In 1979, she ventured to Denver where she worked as a ticket agent for Frontier Airlines at the former Stapleton Airport. Ten years later, she became an English and drama teacher for Denver Public Schools.

She loved the fact that the city embraced Shakespeare, hosting an annual festival for students in the first week of May. Performers dressed in full costume; they could change the period of the play, but not the words, which meant everything was spoken in Middle English.

Abraham Lincoln High School, where she taught, won the Spirit of Shakespeare award in her first year of teaching. "We showed the most enthusiasm," she said. "We were bringing Shakespeare to everybody." Prior to her involvement, the school only sent students from their accelerated classes.

After her first three years of teaching in Denver, Susan spent the next 17 in Boston Public Schools. Boston didn't promote Shakespeare like they did in Denver, but she continued to find her work fulfilling. She spent a year at East Boston High School, three years at the Patrick F. Gavin Middle School and the rest of the time at the former Umana Barns Middle School.

Susan said her students found her own love for learning contagious and would linger after class, asking her opinion on various topics. She has kept in touch with several of the students.

"I love reading. I love writing," she said. "It sounds corny but when you are standing in front of the classroom and you see the faces and you're reaching them and you just know this."

After retirement, she worked with the English Center Boston from 2010-13, hosting foreign students in her home through Homestay, a Dublin-based, shared accommodation service.

Susan enjoyed holding conversations in English with the students at dinner, but she sold her six-bedroom, Colonial home in Winthrop and moved to Boca Raton. There, she taught English as a Second Language at adult education classes.

Susan said she regrets selling her home, calling it a "business mistake." Instead, she wishes she rented it or closed it up until she determined whether she would actually settle in Florida. She has fond memories of the Winthrop neighborhood and her home with a porch on the first and second floor.

"You'd always see people walking by," Susan said. "You talk to everybody." Later, she added: "In society today, people talk to people halfway around the world but don't know who lives next to them."

Susan's husband of 14 years, Jaider Deoliveira of Brazil, is a contractor who sometimes visits his native country to attend to property he owns. The couple met while dancing at The Village Green in Danvers. Susan has two daughters. Taylor McSharry, 26, is a flight attendant with Jet Blue, operating out of Logan. Morgan Lopez, 24, is a student at University of Massachusetts Boston and a server at Legal Seafood in Terminal C at Logan. Susan also has two step-sons who work in the Denver Police Department.

She is preparing to take her exam to be a licensed realtor in Massachusetts. Her work as a realtor is expected to take her back to Charlestown, which she last visited in 1997, the year her mother died. It's also the same year her first husband, Charles Lopez, died of cancer at age 48. She learned Spanish with Charles, who was Mexican-American. She is now learning Portuguese with Jaider.

Her life, she said, is partly defined by an attitude of persistence.


About the author

Adam Bowles

Adam Bowles is the owner of Not With Ink, a digital media company in Jewett City, Conn. He spent 15 years as a reporter and editor for The Bulletin in Norwich, Conn., and has freelanced for such publications as The New York Times. His latest project is called The World in One Square Mile, a series of on-the-spot interviews for short profiles that demonstrate the need to take interest in others, listen to their stories and discover what unites us all. He and his wife, Luisa, have two daughters.

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