Susan Eustice embodied the heart and soul of helping others.

Eustice, the longtime spokeswoman for the Salvation Army’s Western Division in Omaha, died Saturday after a brief illness. She was 65.

During her 21 years at the Salvation Army she founded or co-founded several of the agency’s longest-running programs, including the D.J.’s Hero Awards Luncheon, which has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to local youths; the Back to School Backpack Drive, which has provided more than 200,000 backpacks to families in need; and the Adopt-a-Family Radiothon, which has helped about 2,100 area families with Christmas gifts.

“Susan represented the heart of the Salvation Army,” said Todd Andrews of the Omaha office. “Susan was always looking out for the welfare of others. ... She was a beloved figure at our headquarters .”

Family friend and professional colleague Phil Rooney of the Douglas County Health Department said Eustice could navigate troubled waters with seeming ease. “She was upbeat and ready to help,” he said. “She would always get things handled — (she) made difficult jobs easy.”

Eustice is survived by two daughters, Kyle and Ellen; a son, Sean; and her husband of 42 years, Bill. An avowed dog lover, Eustice doted on her beagle, Buddy.

Daughter Kyle said she has patterned her personal and professional life after her mother’s.

“I wanted to be like her in so many ways,” said Kyle, a journalist. “She was the strongest woman I know.”

Her parents’ affectionate, fun-loving marriage was also a guiding star to Kyle, who said she has modeled her marriage to Paul Lukes after her parents.’

“My dad was the love of her life,” she said. “They had the kind of marriage you’d want to model your own after, and I do. They were best friends.”

Eustice enjoyed reading, traveling, photography and lazy hours at the family cabin at Okoboji. “Her idea of a good time was sitting by the lake and watching the sun set,” her husband said.

The couple met over their mutual love of music, said Bill Eustice, who is lead singer and bass player in regional rock ‘n’ roll band The Firm. The two liked to sing together at the dinner table.

“She was special and irreplaceable,” he said. “We had lots of laughs — that’s a quality to have in life, to make sure you can laugh at things even when they’re not funny.”

Eustice had worked previously for the Leukemia Society and Opera Omaha. She was active in several professional organizations.

Services are pending.

An outpouring of comments on social media followed news of her death.

“Our community is better because of her ,” Jeff Slobotski posted.

Ed Thompson helped Eustice with commercials for the Salvation Army. “She did good things for people who needed good things to happen in their lives,” Thompson wrote on Facebook.

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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