Chaplain Susan Stafford, Ph.D., has had more careers than most people could manage in three lifetimes. Her biographers have described her as a beauty contest winner, model, actress, newspaper columnist, game show hostess, media executive, counselor, clinical psychologist, and chaplain. Susan grew up in Missouri, one of 7 in an Irish, Italian family.
Her acting career began in Los Angeles. Many of you will remember the iconic director, John Ford. He took Susan under his wing and suggested the stage name, Stafford to tie in with his name. Her acting career included co-starring roles in shows like “Marcus Welby, M.D.” (with Robert Young), “Ironside” (with Raymond Burr), “Police Story” (with Steve Lawrence), and “Love American Style” (with Bill Bixby). She also co-hosted “The Regis Philbin Show,” “High Adventure,” “CBS Noontime,” and “The 700 Club.” Susan had her own column in the Los Angeles Times. On her syndicated radio broadcast, “The Susan Stafford Show”, she interviewed celebrities like Jon Voight, Diahann Carroll, Johnny Mathis, Richard Chamberlain, Henry Mancini, Sugar Ray Robinson, Glen Campbell, and Howard Cosell.
OurSeniors.Net readers remember Susan as the original hostess of Merv Griffin’s “Wheel of Fortune”. While on the show, Susan married Dick Ebersol, co-creator of “Saturday Night Live.” Managing a marriage between Hollywood and New York did not work well. You can read more about this in Susan’s book, “Stop The Wheel, I Want To Get Off!”
Susan co-hosted the show with Chuck Woolery for 7 years and Pat Sajak for 7 months before leaving in 1982. No matter how great the money was, as Susan told Oprah, she simply had to do more with her life than turn letters! Susan worked at the top cancer hospital in Houston across from M.D. Anderson for the first year as a Chaplain Intern. Next, she flew to Third World countries as an overseas correspondent for American Leprosy Missions. Susan teamed up onscreen with former Surgeon General Koop in their successful effort to find a cure for leprosy. Returning to the States, she encountered America’s leprosy – A.I.D.S. Unfortunately, her dear friend, Rock Hudson put a face on that new disease. The fear was great, but after dealing with leprosy, Susan was in the right place at the right time to help care for Rock.
Finding herself In Hollywood again, Susan became the V.P. of Barry & Enright Productions, collaborating on many television projects with Dan Enright. As they worked together, Susan found him to be the kindest of men and as time went on, the love of her life. Looking back, Susan said that young girl in Kansas City could never have expected all the turns her life has taken. She completed a 1-year internship at Chabad while getting both an M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Throughout her life, Susan has had a caring heart for people going through difficult times. In addition to working alongside Mother Teresa’s nuns in India, she became a chaplain and served on a crisis team with Media Fellowship International. Her first two trips were to Columbine and Virginia Tech, following the school shootings.
Susan remembers with affection the well-known people who helped her along the way in the world of entertainment. Gordon McLendon and Clint Eastwood hosted a birthday party for her at the Coconut Grove. Susan enjoyed friendships with Pat and Shirley Boone, Lucille Ball and Rhonda Fleming. And after 2 weeks with John Wayne on The Wild Goose, Susan watched “The Duke” feed the hungry in remote areas of Canada. One of her best interviews was with Dr. Charles Stanley, who was respected by so many. Dr. Stanley said God shapes human character by using tools like difficulty and trials. Susan knows about that firsthand and has learned the importance of listening to God’s voice above any other.
Susan Stafford is truly one of our most Amazing Seniors. She is a role model for people everywhere, an inspiration for women who wish to achieve, a comfort to those who face adversity, and a leader in promoting peace and understanding among all people. She demonstrates that seniors can remain active in a life of giving, serving, and comforting. Susan states she’s never been older before so this is new territory. She noticed Frank Lloyd Wright completed one-third of his life’s work between the ages of 80 and 92! It’s never too late to see your dreams take flight.
Susan says as you get older, realities set in. You recall wonderful highlights but also the struggles that made you who you are today. GETTING OLD ISN’T FOR THE FAINT OF HEART! Susan said. Losing her mother was the most difficult thing she had to deal with, then Dan Enright, the love of her life, her dad, two sisters, and a brother. We are survivors, but sometimes feel guilty that we’re still here and wonder . . . Why?
Susan’s ministry continues to unfold with the Nevada Chaplaincy and Metro Police in Las Vegas. Wanting to help those burned out from living at the speed of life, Susan formed the non-profit, Wheel of Grace Unlimited. During Covid-19, she began a podcast called “Out of The Box with Susan Stafford” with high-profile guests like Pat Boone (also an Amazing Senior) and Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. OurSeniors readers can view or listen to these shows on YouTube, Vimeo, iTunes, and Spotify.
Susan’s focus today is on how we can all handle the challenges of life. Contact Mr. Milton Suchin to schedule her for a speaking engagement at email@example.com. You can order an autographed copy of Susan’s book via her personal asst., Tammy or request a private counseling session by phone or face-to-face at Believers2000@aol.com. In the meantime, Susan encourages us all to Enjoy the Journey. It’s going fast!