Remember Susan Mogerman? If so, get ready to think back over many memories of this amazing lady. If you did not have the pleasure of knowing Susan, sit back and savor learning what you missed.
I met Susan in 1975 when we both worked at the fledgling Illinois Times, a weekly downstate newspaper where I sold advertisements and she was a freelance writer. Susan had a degree in journalism from University of Missouri and immediately put her skills and education to work. Susan and I worked, laughed and helped put out the weekly paper.
In July 1977, a new editor came to lead our team, Fletcher Farrar. As he remembers, "Some called IT the New Yorker of the Prairie, and Susan fit the bill with her clever, funny columns and the style she put into her writing. Her main assignment was writing the weekly calendar of events, which was second only to the personal ads as the most popular part of the paper. Susan was just a lot of fun, and we all hated it when she 'went over to the other side,' as we called it, to work for Jim Thompson and state government."
Susan worked for both Governor Jim Thompson and Governor Jim Edgar. She worked in Thompson's press office and later served more than a decade as deputy director, then director, of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. In these positions, Susan became involved with the long-term planning and development of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) and Foundation. Nicki Stratton, former director of Looking for Lincoln, says, "Susan was very familiar with the rich Lincoln history spread throughout Illinois and saw the importance of statewide outreach for all Lincoln sites."
Another significant professional role was serving as executive director of Downtown Springfield, Inc. (DSI) from 2002-2004. During that time, she built relationships between nonprofit organizations and state and local elected officials. Megan Pressnall worked with Susan at DSI and says, "Susan always knew just how to ask the right person to volunteer for anything the organization needed – recruiting a preservationist to lead architecture tours and gathering bank presidents to steer the board of trustees. Susan could also craft a speech that was witty, creative and concise."
As busy as Susan was with her career, she was also involved in Springfield's Jewish community, including Temple Israel and its Sisterhood and Hadassah. She also participated in the Springfield Junior League where she met Julie Cellini, a community leader working to develop the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, who asked Susan to join in this project. Susan's passion for our community and her people skills were instrumental in developing a world-renowned historical site honoring our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.
Constructing the ALPLM required millions of dollars in federal and state funding. Susan's previous working relationships with former governors Thompson and Edgar, plus a longtime friendship with Senator Dick Durbin, made her go-to skills quite important. Durbin, a strong advocate for the creation of the library and museum, said, "Sue combined the savvy of big-league politics and a passion for preserving history with a wicked sense of humor. We had been friends since our kids roamed the sidewalks of Lincoln Avenue together. When I needed an honest ally in pursuit of the ALPLM, Sue could be trusted to give sound advice and make key contacts. She was a major part of the inside team that brought this integral piece of history to fruition."
Estie Karpman, Susan's longtime friend, remembers clearly the day Susan met with her about the planned ALPLM. Susan had been appointed the first chief operating officer of the ALPLM Foundation and asked Estie to join the team as the foundation's development director. Estie says, "Susan spoke with such passion about this once in-a-lifetime opportunity, not to just give Abe his due, but to make it more than an ordinary presidential museum. It would be a destination for young and old alike, and we have only one shot to do it right!" That "shot" turned out to be successful.
I was always in awe of Susan's many talents beyond her career. Her artistic talents were recognized by a scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago. She could paint, make amazing sculptures and create beautiful needlepoint.
Another talent was having a large circle of friends. Sandy Weiss recalls, "When Barry and I moved to Springfield in 1973, Susan was the first person I met. She instantly welcomed me and introduced me to Springfield. Her loving manner allowed us to meet friends, be a part of the community and celebrate Jewish holidays together. Our remarkable friendship lasted 48 years."
My favorite remembrance was watching Susan with her husband, Jay, and their sons, Josh and Rob – sharing good food, fun, hearing their laughter and tales of dearest grandson, Isaiah.
Susan's amazing smile and quick wit began to falter as Alzheimer's developed. Susan succumbed to this disease on July 15. We miss you, dear friend, but you will definitely remain in our memories.
Julie Dirksen and Susan Mogerman were friends for more than 45 years and also worked together professionally in the formative years of both Illinois Times and the ALPLM. They shared a passion for developing a world-class museum and library to preserve the legacy of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.