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OBITUARY: Susan Watanabe, Writer and Political/Community Activist Leader

Susan Elizabeth Watanabe, a television writer, community leader and political activist, passed away on Aug. 25 of a brain tumor, it was announced by her family.

Susan Watanabe

Watanabe was a successful writer for such popular televisions series as “Girlfriends” and “One on One,” among other projects, and well-known in Los Angeles for her prolific support and fundraising for progressive candidates and causes, new authors, young professionals and community groups.

She is survived by her husband David White, SAG-AFTRA national executive director; their 9-year-old daughter Sophia; her parents Don and Ida Watanabe; and brother Scott.

In addition to her career as a television writer, Watanabe was a sought-after ally and strategist who supported the candidacies of numerous Los Angeles City Council members, as well as African American candidates in the Midwest and South. Locally Watanabe, served as president of two Los Angeles neighborhood associations in the communities in which she and her husband lived.

Known for her humor and lively commentary on people, politics and pop culture, she and White married in 2000. She committed her life to writing, supporting causes, and mentoring young people. She was happiest when with family and friends, especially Sophia, who, in her words, anchored her in the thrill and wonder of motherhood, and deepened her commitment to make the world a safer and more humane village for the next generation.

Born Oct. 20, 1968 in Chicago, Watanabe attended Whitney M. Young Magnet High School and later attended the University of Illinois. Following that, she earned a graduate degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, where she was elected president of the student union.

The date for her memorial service will be Saturday, Sept. 15, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Dr. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Susan’s Circle (, a foundation established by friends in her name and housed within the Liberty Hill Foundation.

Susan’s Circle’s mission statement: “Susan’s Circle was ignited in April 2017 by four families who were inspired by one special person – Susan Watanabe …

“Whether it was in a boardroom or around a kitchen table, Susan recognized the power of bringing people together from all walks of life. Sharing a steadfast commitment to advancing social change, Susan served as a national thought leader with her husband David White to make sure our democracy is strengthened by our participation.

“We created Susan’s Circle to build a community of friends who, in the words of President Obama, seek to ‘Show up. Dive in. Persevere.’ …

“Our first action with Susan’s Circle is to create a giving circle with the Liberty Hill Foundation where we will seek to identify and invest in leaders who have taken on the responsibility of public service and have inspired the participation of others to make our communities and country better for everyone.

“We hope you will join us as we seek to show up, dive in, and persevere together.”

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