Slavin loved music and making memories

August 4, 2017

Jazz singer Ken Slavin’s earliest memory is watching “American Bandstand” with his mother, Susan, and growing up in a house filled with music.

“She would turn it on every afternoon and teach me the dances with Dick Clark,” said Slavin, a San Antonio musician whose parents encouraged him to pursue a musical career. “She would spontaneously want to dance with you.”

After a life filled with spontaneity and music and creating fond memories with everyone she met, Susan Elizabeth Webster Slavin died last week after battling cancer, diabetes and heart disease. She was 76.

Ken Slavin said his mother had traveled the world as the daughter of an oil company executive. She never met a stranger and was often the center of attention with her shining personality and dramatic flair as a storyteller.

But the world traveler also loved raising a family. She constantly bragged about her three children at school functions and helped spark Slavin’s passion for music.

“She and my father were encouraging me to sing long before I had the courage to go professional,” Slavin recalled. “I was very embarrassed about my voice when I was young. My mother was probably the ultimate stage mother, in a good way. She totally encouraged my singing career.”

Born in Shelby, Montana, on Jan. 27, 1941, Susan Slavin was the daughter of a civil engineer who was hired by the Arabian American Oil Co. in Saudi Arabia. She owned and expertly rode two Arabian horses and attended boarding schools in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S.

“It was a very exotic childhood, born into this nomadic oil life,” her son said.

In 1962, she married “the love of her life,” Charles Slavin, a member of the Coast Guard, and for 16 years raised a family as a military wife. They settled in San Antonio in 1978, and Susan Slavin began a 30-year career selling jewelry — and was good at it.

“She loved the interaction with people,” Ken Slavin said. “She was definitely a natural salesperson. She always used to tell me she didn’t sell jewelery, she sold memories.”

On Thursday, as Slavin shared some of his fondest memories, he recalled a mother who shared her love of music with her young son — even though she didn’t know how to sing.

“She could not carry a tune,” Slavin said. “But she loved to sing anyway. That never stopped her.”