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Former Indiana first lady Susan Bayh dies at 61

Susan Bayh, the wife of former Indiana senator and governor Evan Bayh, passed away Friday night at the age of 61.

INDIANAPOLIS — Susan Bayh, the wife of former Indiana senator and governor Evan Bayh, passed away Friday night at the age of 61.

A family spokesman told the Associated Press on Saturday that Bayh died Friday night in McLean, Virginia. 

She had battled brain cancer since 2018.

Susan Bayh was Indiana’s first lady for eight years after her husband, Democrat Evan Bayh, won election to the first of two terms as governor in 1988. 

She first underwent brain surgery in 2015 to remove a benign tumor, but she later had multiple surgeries and radiation and immunotherapy treatments after a malignant glioblastoma was discovered in May 2018.

Evan Bayh shared the news of his wife's passing in a Facebook post Saturday.

Susan Bayh told reporters in 2019 that she was grateful for support she received during her health troubles.  

“I think I’ve gotten probably more prayer letters from Indiana than anywhere,” she said. “It really doesn’t matter what religion it is, just as long as people are praying and keeping me up in somebody’s thoughts.”  

Bayh grew up in California and graduated with degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, followed by law school at the University of Southern California.

She met Evan Bayh while both were working in Washington in the early 1980s. They married in 1985 as he was following his father, former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, into Indiana politics, leading to his 1988 election at age 32, becoming the nation’s youngest governor. 

Birch Bayh died in 2019.  

Susan Bayh is survived by Evan, her sons, Nick and Beau, her parents, Bob and Carol Breshears, and her siblings, Bob Jr., Ann, and Linda, along with numerous nieces and nephews. 

The Bayhs had lived in Washington since Evan Bayh was elected to the Senate in 1998. He didn’t seek election to a third Senate term in 2010. He launched an unexpected comeback bid in 2016 for the Senate but lost to Republican Todd Young. 

Current Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb gave the following statement about Bayh's passing:

“Janet and I were saddened to learn about the passing of former First Lady Susan Bayh. She was an extraordinary and radiant public servant, wife, mother and friend, who leaves a remarkable impact on our state and nation. I ask all Hoosiers to join us in praying and being there for the Bayh family.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett also shared a statement on the former Indiana first lady: 

"For more than a half-century, and across three generations, the Bayh family has given itself to this state and our country. A talented lawyer, Susan exemplified this spirit of service as First Lady, opening the doors of the Governor's Residence and inviting the people of Indiana to share in her and Evan's joy as they became parents to Beau and Nick. In recent years, Susan continued to inspire as she battled cancer with characteristic fearlessness – even as her sons enlisted in the military and swore oaths to support and defend the Constitution on our behalf."

"As with so many today, I am saddened by the loss of my friend but heartened at the legacy of leadership Susan has left to her family and a grateful Hoosier State. Steph and I offer our heartfelt condolences to Evan, Beau, Nick, and the entire Bayh family." - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett

The Bayh family said a memorial service will be held when health conditions allow. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that contributions be made to the Bayh Family Scholarship through the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs School at Indiana University.  

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