Susan Linnée answered an ad in a Buenos Aires newspaper placed by an NBC journalist in the early '70s seeking a "girl Friday."
Before long, the young woman with boundless curiosity had earned the title of "girl reporter," leading to a career worlds away from the Minneapolis suburb where she was raised.
But it was in a St. Louis Park classroom that Linnée first found herself drawn to far-flung locales. Her fifth-grade teacher would play "The Distant Lands," a radio program that opened with a deep voice intoning, "For you, the comfort of your own four walls. For me, the distant lands."
"That did it for me," Linnée recounted in a 2013 commencement speech at St. Louis Park High School, her alma mater. "Since that time, there have been many distant lands."
A distinguished and globe-trotting journalist, Linnée died Nov. 6 in Edina of an aggressive brain tumor. She was 75.
Her first reporting gig for NBC in Argentina in 1974 led to a career with the Associated Press, where she became a trailblazing bureau chief in Spain and Kenya before leaving the news organization in 2004. As one of the first female AP bureau chiefs abroad, Linnée nurtured countless young journalists.
Linnée was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and grew up in St. Louis Park. She studied political science at the University of Minnesota and graduated in 1962. It grew apparent at an early age that her inquisitive spirit would take her beyond the suburb. Worn passports and press credentials document her lifelong travels to nearly 100 countries. She lived in nine of them.
"Her curiosity was unbridled," said her brother, Paul Linnée, of Bloomington.
She followed this curiosity into journalism. It took her to Jackson, Miss., where she admired the dogwood and jonquil blooms and worked as the state's only female AP reporter, according to a local news story at the time.
It took her to the AP West Africa bureau, where she reported from her apartment-office in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to "the tune of screeching fruit bats, thudding jackhammers, squeaking construction cranes" and any music that fit her mood — a scene she wrote about in 1982.
It took her to Madrid, Spain, and then 14 years later to Nairobi, Kenya, where she guided the AP's East Africa bureau in years rocked by tumult, including the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
As an editor, Linnée could be prickly and particular, but she rooted her work in empathy for those she covered, former colleagues say.
As a "mother hen" figure, she encouraged journalists, artists and writers to cultivate their gifts, said Michela Wrong, a British author and Linnée's close friend. "She would spot talent and then try and help you."
When she learned her gardener in Nairobi was writing a book manuscript by hand, Linnée offered him her old Olivetti manual typewriter. Stanley Gazemba tapped out a prizewinning novel on those smooth keys, relying on Linnée as an honest reader and critic.
Linnée, who divorced near the start of her career, modeled the way for single women who don't go on to have families, Wrong said.
She returned to Minnesota in 2015, her curiosity piqued by all that now felt unfamiliar. Soon she connected with the Twin Cities' East African community. She had found the "distant lands" even in her hometown.
Linnée's survivors include her brother and two nieces, Anne Linnée and Maggie Cosgrove. A celebration of life for family and friends is planned in Minneapolis on Nov. 26.