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Ligonier author's love of animals aided U.S. during war

| Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008

Although Frances Todd was admired for her horsemanship, artistic talents and love of animals, she also was respected for her service to her country.

During World War II, Frances Hays, daughter of John Crossan Hays, president of the then family-owned Iron City Tool Works, was employed in a defense factory making castings for incendiary bombs.

Frances "Susie" Hays Todd of Ligonier, a past Master of Fox Hounds for the Rolling Rock Hunt, died of complications from emphysema on Friday, Oct. 3, 2008, in her home. She was 83.

Mrs. Todd used her knowledge of horses during World War II as a courier for the Frontier Nursing Service (Nurses on Horseback) in Kentucky, an organization that provides family oriented health care in hard-to-reach areas.

As a courier, she often had to ride between outposts on various missions and frequently talked about the hard life people faced in the mountains of Kentucky.

In 2003, Mrs. Todd compiled her memoirs in a book titled "Foxhunting in Western Pennsylvania," which included her participation in the Rolling Rock Hunt Pony Club for children.

Raised in Squirrel Hill and Fox Chapel, Frances Hays was one of three children in the family of John Crossan and Frances Dalzell Hays.

In 1954, Frances Hays married Burt Todd, whom she met while they were still in school and attending the Barclay ballroom dances in the 20th Century Club in Oakland.

During their wedding trip, which took them around the world, the Todds visited the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, where Mrs. Todd became the first American woman to visit the country.

"My mother was consistently Susie Todd, and you could always depend on her character to be true to herself," said Frances "Franny" Stewart of Squirrel Hill.

"She was comfortable being herself and invited others to share her deep love of animals and nature," Stewart added, recalling the advice her mother gave her daughters as they prepared for their business careers.

"My mother said 'that you can tell a lot about a person or an animal from their eyes. The eyes are a window where you can read the true character of a person you are working or dealing with'."

Mrs. Todd's daughter, Laura Widing, said she grew up with dynamic parents in an exciting household, and her mother was a role model.

"We had a wonderful fun-filled childhood -- one day cantering our ponies across open fields and the next day boarding a plane to travel with our parents on a business trip around the world."

Mrs. Todd's son-in-law, Charles Stewart, said that even though Susie Todd was married to Burt Todd -- a well-liked entrepreneur, world traveler and raconteur -- she had a successful life of her own, which included opening The Daisy, a specialty gift shop in Ligonier in 1968, with several friends.

"Susie enjoyed working with oils," he added. "Her paintings and sculptures often depicted the many joys of her life, as did the paintings she did of horses and her two Bernese Mountain dogs, which she rescued from a puppy mill.

"Several of Susie's bronze sculptures can be found in private collections in both the United States and the United Kingdom," said Charles Stewart.

In addition to her daughters, Mrs. Todd is survived by her grandchildren, Natalie, Charles, Julia, Kathryn and Elizabeth.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Burt K. Todd in 2006, a sister, Mary D. "Molly" Hays, and a brother, John C. "Jack" Hays Jr.

Visitation is from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, at Foxley, the family residence, where a memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11.

Arrangements by the Snyder Funeral Home, Ligonier.

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