Suzanne B. Asa learned how to dance as a child in Brookfield, taking lessons in a neighbor’s basement.
“I remember how excited she’d be showing me her latest dance steps,” said her older sister, Greta Adams.
Ms. Asa spent much of her adult life passing the joy she found in dance on to others. For decades she operated a dance studio in Westmont and later Downers Grove. She also choreographed numerous plays and musicals for Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, Immaculate Heart of Mary High School in Westchester and Nazareth Academy in La Grange Park, where she also taught Spanish.
“She was a terrific teacher and choreographer to hundreds of aspiring dancers, some who later went on to careers of their own in dance,” said Julie Gleason, a former instructor at Suzanne’s Studio of Dance.
Ms. Asa, 67, who taught Spanish at Eisenhower Junior High School in Darien for 34 years, died of cancer Sunday, Jan. 26, in her Darien home. She was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2008.
“She was kind, courageous and so much fun,” Gleason said. “She was a mentor to me and so many others, both personally and professionally.”
Born in Berwyn, Ms. Asa grew up in Brookfield and graduated from Lyons Township High School in La Grange. She continued her dance lessons, performed in school plays and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Latin and Spanish from Loyola University Chicago. She later added a master’s degree in Spanish and education from St. Xavier University in Chicago.
After graduating from college, Ms. Asa danced on many Chicago-area stages and spent time in California, where she was a judge for dance competitions and performed with a couple of local troupes, Adams said.
In the early 1970s she taught Spanish at Nazareth Academy for several years, and for a while she was the director of the Barbizon School of Modeling in Elmhurst. In the mid-1970s she opened her dance studio, Suzanne’s Studio of Dance in Westmont, which she later moved to Downers Grove.
In 1984, while vice president of the Chicago-Midwest Chapter of the National Association of Dance and Affiliated Artists, Ms. Asa was chosen by the South African Dance Teachers Association to serve as a judge for an annual dance festival held in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
“It was the thrill of her life to preside over a dance competition halfway around the world,” Adams said.
Ms. Asa closed her studio in 1999, but continued teaching tap dance for two more years at the Academy of Dance Arts in Lombard.
While running her dance studio, Ms. Asa returned to the classroom and joined the faculty at Eisenhower, where she taught Spanish from 1976 to 2010.
“I learned a lot from Suzanne in my first couple of years as principal and would use her facial expressions in my staff meetings as a guide for what I was doing well and what I needed to improve upon,” said Mike Fitzgerald, the principal at Eisenhower.
Known as a passionate and inspiring teacher, Ms. Asa introduced students and colleagues alike to myriad experiences in and out of the classroom, from field trips to Mexican restaurants to Cinco de Mayo celebrations held at school.
“The thing about Suzanne was that no matter if you were her student, co-worker, supervisor or friend, through your interactions with her you always seemed to learn more about yourself and what you were truly capable of in life,” Fitzgerald said. “What a wonderful gift to have as an educator.”
Ms. Asa leaves no other immediate survivors.
Services have been held.