Susan Bray DeLong, whose broadcasting career has taken her from Radio 2MG in Mudgee to stardom on powerful big-city radio stations across the United States, is signed for eternity.
Susan died peacefully in her sleep shortly after dawn on January 14 in Mudgee after a six-month illness. Her American-born second husband, journalist and editor Edward K DeLong, was by her side. The night before, she had gathered to spend a merry evening visiting with Ed and his daughter Chavaleh (CK) Braddick.
Throughout her career, Susan has been a pioneer for women in radio. Station after station, first in Australia and then in America, she was the first woman to earn her own solo radio show.
In America, his sassy personality, Australian accent, quick wit and willingness to tackle controversial topics head-on earned him the nickname “The Saucy Aussie”. Hundreds of thousands of listeners loved her – or loved to hate her. A few sent him death threats.
Susan has interviewed US presidents, movie stars, famous authors and captains of industry from the 50,000 watt “clear channel” station WHO-AM in west-central Des Moines, Iowa. Then came its lead in the bright lights of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fourth-largest US market, in power stations WCAU-AM and WWDB-FM, and WRC-AM in Washington, DC, the nation’s capital.
In a book she was writing about her life, Susan said her favorite of five presidential interviews were Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. She cited movie star Patrick Swayze as another high-profile interview, saying he came on her show the morning the space shuttle Challenger exploded and told her, “I feel stupid talking about my movie after listening to you talk about the space shuttle.” He then explained what space exploration meant to him before talking about his film and his life.
The youngest of three sisters, Susan was born to Ken and Esme Bray on August 30, 1942 in the Australian Riverina town of Hay, NSW.
She credits much of her strong personality to learning to defend herself as a baby in a family where her father meted out harsh punishments, to dealing with callous treatment throughout her life due to about the physical handicap of being born without a right hand and how to succeed in the kind of male-dominated industry where, say, a manager of a station where she worked loved to say, “Get the broads out of broadcasting!”
In Hay Susan’s father, a Pastures Protection Board Veterinary Inspector, has planted a one-acre vegetable garden in the back yard and along the back fence has planted many types of fruit and nut trees – at the exception of loquats and quinces, which he considered not worth eating.
“Around the perimeter, against our fences, the fruit trees,” she recalls in her book. “I can still see them. A nectarine tree heavy with delicious fruit, especially sweet with juice running down my chin when I sneaked in at night when the moon was full. Next to it are peach trees – white peaches, the best to eat very ripe from the tree, and then the yellow peach tree, then a plum, a red apple, a Johnathon, and then my personal favorite, the Granny Smith tree with our swing just below.
“Then, against the other fences, there was the walnut tree, two almond trees, a pear tree, another plum tree and my favorite, the apricot tree. Then there was a row of citrus fruits. A lemon, a grapefruit, lots of orange trees and two different tangerines, it was a paradise for children.
“Often on a hot summer night, when mum didn’t feel like cooking, she would say, ‘It’s tea in the garden tonight kids!’ So we tried to eat a piece of fruit from each tree, nuts and grapes, until we barely had room for carrots and strawberries.”
And then, displaying the competitive spirit as a child that helped her succeed as an adult in the fierce world of broadcasting, she added: “We created a game to see who could put the most sultanas in his mouth. I won with 12. I almost choked, but it was such a feat!”
Susan learned to read at home before starting school. As a result, her father placed her in first grade while other people her age and even older started kindergarten. She stayed young for her class year after year and left for the University of New England when she was 16 – too young, she later said, to leave home for the first time. .
The job brought Susan’s father to Mudgee while she was at university and her years behind the microphone began on the DJ’s desk at Radio 2MG after she joined them. From there she went to 2GZ in Orange, NSW and then to 2CA in the nation’s capital where she met her first husband, journalist Ken Braddick. Ken was posted to Manila, where the couple’s son Jason was born, then to Saigon where Susan filed reports from war-torn Vietnam in Australia using her maiden name.
Ken Braddick’s work with United Press International took the family to San Francisco, where his daughter CK was born, and eventually to Des Moines in the US state of Iowa, where Susan’s rise to stardom American radio started as a co-host with a male presenter. on WHO and took off when she was given her very own Susan Bray Show.
Susan met Ed in Des Moines after a divorce from Ken. Then came his move to the lights of Philadelphia. She consistently topped the charts in this competitive talk radio market for nearly 20 years before retiring when her station switched to music.
In 2001, Susan and Ed bought a property near Mudgee which they named “Ardrossan” to reflect their shared Scottish heritage. They moved there with CK to help care for Susan’s mother and younger sister Jane, who has since passed away after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. Susan’s son stayed in America.
“Although she spent the last 20 years of her life on a small farm a few minutes from Mudgee, Susan’s graphic life story is largely unknown to the many locals who knew her as Susan or as the wife of the former Guardian Mudgee editor Ed DeLong,” said respected Mudgee reporter Elwyn Lang, like Ed a former Guardian editor.
Susan is survived by her husband Ed and daughter CK of Mudgee; by son Jason and wife Kristin of Orlando, Florida; and by his older sister Margaret Clark of Buderim, Queensland.
She requested that her ashes be scattered by Lake Esme at “Ardrossan”, where her mother’s ashes were also placed. A memorial service for family and close friends is planned in the future when COVID-19 becomes less of a problem for travel.