In memory of Sue Mencher, 1960-2023

The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council is heartbroken to share the news that Sue Mencher, beloved coworker, friend, and the all-time longest serving employee of the Arts Council, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Friday, July 29, following a battle with lung cancer.

Born Nov. 3, 1960, Sue spent over two decades in servitude to Pittsburgh’s artists and arts and culture communities. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the Pittsburgh Technical Institute in computer science and computer forensics, she started as a database and systems specialist in October 2000 with ProArts, and stayed with the company when it merged with the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Alliance in 2005 to become the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

During her years with the company, she held numerous positions before being promoted to senior director of internal systems where she led the Arts Council’s long-term technology vision and was responsible for the internal systems and staff development.

Her coworkers remember Sue for being fiercely loyal, compassionate, and quick witted.

A white woman with pulled-back blonde hair, a necklace, a blue long-sleeved shirt, and blue painted fingernails, smiles while holding a book that has a bird painted on the front cover
Sue Mencher

“Sue was one of those great behind-the-scenes employees that doesn’t get celebrated very often,” said Mitch Swain, who worked side-by-side with Sue for 18 years as CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council from 2005 to 2023. “She was consistently learning, looking for new and better ways to do things. She was extremely loyal, a hard worker that cared about the organization and its employees. I’ll miss her.”

An avid lover of adventure and traveling, Sue left Pittsburgh to travel the country in an RV during the pandemic, while continuing to work full-time at the Arts Council remotely. She loved searching for sunshine in every state she visited and continuously boosted coworkers’ spirits by providing a safe space for anyone needing to talk, sharing photographs of her cats, and livening up virtual staff meetings by playing videos in honor of people’s birthdays.

Erin O’Neill, manager of Art on the Walls, says Sue was the backbone of the Arts Council. “Her quick wit, kindness to animals, birthday parties, and tell-it-like-it-is approach to work will forever be in the fabric of the Arts Council in Pittsburgh.”

Allison Popieski, senior manager of programs, calls Sue a “bad ass,” and credits her with one of her favorite memories of working at the Arts Council, one that paid homage to her former career: spending a working Zoom meeting with Sue teaching her how to curl her hair with a straightener.

“She's been my go-to since I started at the Arts Council,” said Allison. “Any question I had, personal or business, Sue was always there. It's a huge loss, and her shoes are impossible to fill.”

Before entering a career in technology, Sue served for 22 years as a hairstylist, and changed her career path after developing health issues caused by hair product chemicals. She credited her strong work ethics to growing up on a farm in Beaver County.

“Sue cared deeply about her work because she similarly cared deeply about the team she supported and their respective work in the community,” said Patrick Fisher, current CEO of the Arts Council. “Sue's dedication to the team and our work was fully on exhibit the past few months as she found ways to stay engaged with her role, checking in and participating in team meetings even during hospital stays and between doctor's appointments. Sue didn't want to let us go and now the team grieves our shared loss as we say goodbye to her.”

"Her shoes are impossible to fill."

Mia Hooper, director of development and grantmaking, praised Sue’s never-ending pursuit of learning and always making herself available to listen. “I remember regularly going into her office back when we were in person to just chit chat about anything,” Mia shared. “Sometimes it was about cats, sometimes it was ‘tea,’ sometimes it was motherhood. She was always there to listen and to chat, even when she was crazy busy.”

While Sue was a very quiet person in group settings, coworkers remember the weight of her words when she did speak, noting that they always came from a good place. She was also never afraid to speak up when advocating for the people on her team.

Sue was very much loved by the people she worked with, and her death is a monumental loss for the entire Greater Pittsburgh arts community and everyone who was lucky enough to be graced with her presence.

Sue is survived by her daughter Kellie, who made her mom proud working closely by her side as the Arts Council’s manager of internal systems, along with mother Gayle McConnell; son Casey Mencher; son-in-law John Hommey; siblings Sharon Mercer, Rick McConnell, Randy (Kathy) McConnell, and Jenean Maratta; grandchildren Danielle Forrester and Haylie Forrester; and many nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her father, Herman McConnell, and daughter, Carlie Mencher.

A celebration of Sue’s life will be announced privately at a later date. Anyone who would like to donate to the family’s medical and end-of-life expenses can do so at this GoFundMe link.