As a middle and high school teacher and assistant principal, Susan Brostrom Romane had to administer tough love.
But her guidance was lopsided.
“She’d say ‘OK, you messed up big, but now it’s behind you and it’s about moving forward and getting better.’ She gave people great dignity and compassion,” said Jana Hennen-Burr of Rogers, Romane’s supervisor in the Elk River Public School District.
Romane died June 30 at age 54 after a three-year battle with cancer.
She taught English and occasionally let out a schoolmarmish scold — “Don’t ever end a sentence with a preposition.” But she was better known for firmly and lovingly guiding people to self-discovery.
“She guided me through a career decision by asking me ‘What’s scaring you from making this jump?’ ” said Romane’s daughter-in-law, Monique Romane of St. Louis Park. “Then she’d build up your confidence and clarity. She saw things in you that you didn’t see in yourself.”
Romane’s husband, Scott Romane of Maple Grove, said anyone who came in contact with her — by birth, neighborhood, school or marriage — “found themselves lovingly challenged to be more than they were when they first met her.”
She was a striking, graceful and stylish figure who looked as if she were channeling Jackie O, and her graceful appearance conflicted with her sometimes plebeian advice. Family members recalled her dispensing bons mots such as “Beer pairs really well with eggs,” “If you find yourself at Coney Island, you aren’t doing things right until you’ve stuffed five hot dogs into your mouth” and “Believe it or not, underwear is always optional.”
Intelligent and quick-witted even near the end of her life, she joked at the priest’s visit for the Anointing of the Sick. “Who’s sick? I’m not sick,” she said.
The family requested that “Black attire was not at all required” at her funeral, and friends and family complied. “She wanted it to be fun and lighthearted with humor, as she lived,” Monique said.
Romane fought her cancer with “wide-eyed disbelief that this could be happening, but never a whit of bitterness, blame or regret,” said Gail Weber of Elk River, a co-worker who taught with Romane in the district.
Romane grew up in La Crescent, Minn., and graduated as an English and secondary education major from Viterbo College in La Crosse, where she met her future husband. She taught English at St. Stephen’s Catholic School in Anoka, VandenBerge Middle School in Elk River, Rogers Middle School and Rogers High School.
In 2009, she transitioned to be assistant principal at the high school. She also became a learning community facilitator at St. Mary’s University in Winona to help other teachers advance professionally.
Hennen-Burr said Romane was deeply bothered by human intolerance or spite. “She was fierce about not tolerating bullying or harassment,” Hennen-Burr said.
Weber recalled the time Romane was teaching “The Diary of Anne Frank.” She created a Holocaust museum in the form of a train car in the school gym. “She was passionate about wanting students to understand,” Weber said.
“Susan never saw imperfection — only potential — and had the unique ability to be able to draw that potential out of everyone she met,” her husband said in his eulogy. “That was Susan’s passion, and a gift she so freely, willingly, authentically and passionately shared with all she came in contact.”
She is survived by her parents, Richard and Doreen Brostrom; husband Scott, son Patrick and daughter Margaret Cassett, one granddaughter and six siblings. Services have been held.