"She was my best friend, and she was an extraordinary mom," said Drew Tatum, her son. "Any bumps in the road, she always helped us through it (he and his brother, Scott). I don't know what I did to deserve a mother like that, but I'm grateful for the 44 years I had with her."

Tatum, a long-time counselor in Clovis and an Eastern New Mexico University board of regent member, died Feb. 7 at the age of 71 after a three-week battle with cancer. She was the co-founder of the Clovis Counseling Center and retired from counseling last year. Today would have been her 72nd birthday.

"I can't count the amount of times throughout the years that walking through stores and other places that people came out of the wood works to tell me what an impact she had had on them," said Drew Tatum. "She was the most kind, compassionate, caring person I have ever known, and she made a lot of people's dark worlds better."

Tatum said when he was around 12 years old, he and his mother got into a fight and didn't speak for a couple of days.

"She pulled over the car one day, and we talked it out, and she told me that if we ever get to that point again, we were going to have a secret signal that we needed to stop and give each other a hug and talk it out."

Tatum said "communicating can resolve any problem" was his mother's philosophy.

Judge Matthew Chandler, who was close to the family, said Susan impacted the hearts of many in the local community.

"But what I believe she will be most remembered for is her strong passion for counsel and her deep love for her family," he said. "Over the last several years, I always noticed that nothing made her smile more than the mention of her grandchildren. She lived a beautiful life, and we will certainly miss her."

ENMU President Steven Gamble said the university will feel Tatum's loss heavily as she had just been placed as the president of the board this year.

"Susan Tatum was a remarkable person," he said. "She always put the students first in any decision that she made as a regent. She was always prepared for the board meetings and always had sharp questions to ask. She really was just an extraordinary member of the board of regents."

"I know I speak for the entire board of regents, the students, faculty and staff that she will truly be missed both as a person and as a board member. Our condolences go out to Ed Tatum (her husband) and the Tatum family."

Drew Tatum said during her short battle with cancer, his mother showed "ultimate strength and courage, and was more concerned about us than herself."

"We miss her so much. What I always tell myself when faced with a problem, I would always ask what my mom would do," he said. "I've always heard her voice in my head, and I still do. She has always been a great mother, wife, daughter and an overall phenomenal person."