Suzanne Harootunian, 50, of Glen Mills, who fought the eating disorder anorexia nervosa for 20 years and went public with her story to help others, died of the disease Dec. 6 at her home.

Mrs. Harootunian was born in Harrisburg, grew up in Havertown, and lived in Springfield, Delaware County, before moving to Glen Mills in 2003.

She graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School in 1977 and attended Drexel University with a major in nutrition.

Unlike many anorexics, who develop the disease in their teens, Mrs. Harootunian was afflicted at 30, she told ABC's 20/20 in a segment that aired early last year.

She jogged obsessively and avoided meals with her family. She wasted away to 80 pounds on a 5-foot-4 frame and had to be hospitalized for 58 days in 2007 at the Renfrew Center in Philadelphia.

"The whole idea of gaining weight is scary, but it's not. I have mixed emotions about it," Mrs. Harootunian told 20/20 on the morning she checked into Renfrew.

Part of the healing process was asking why she was starving herself, she told 20/20. She said she came to realize that her life felt out of control, and that controlling her weight was the one area where she felt powerful.

A year after her release from Renfrew, she was shown in June frolicking in the waves on an Ocean City, N.J., beach, 40 pounds heavier.

She had lost some weight since then, and it took a toll on her heart, her family said.

She and Lee C. Harootunian, whom she had met through mutual friends, married in 1982. Mrs. Harootunian worked as a manager at Jimmy Duffy's Catering for a number of years, but resigned to care for her ailing father.

She enjoyed gourmet cooking, vacationing at the beach, and playing with her pug dogs.

Her greatest gift was compassion, said her husband. "She always had a kind word and loved to make people laugh and feel good about themselves," he said. "She never let her affliction get in the way of helping others, and always kept her sense of humor."

Surviving in addition to her husband are sons Corbin and Connor; daughter Kristen; her mother, Katherine Scanlan O'Neill; a brother; and a sister.

Friends may call from 10 to 10:45 a.m. today at St. John Neumann Church, 380 Highland Ave., Bryn Mawr. A Funeral Mass will follow at 11. Interment will be in Birmingham/Lafayette Cemetery, West Chester.

Memorial donations may be made to A Chance to Heal, Box 2342, Jenkintown, Pa. 19046.

Contact staff writer Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or bcook@phillynews.com.