Sue Popesku: April 8, 1948 – April 19, 2020
The Fort St. John Arts Council and all our members were saddened and devastated by the sudden death last week of Sue Popesku, a friend, mentor and inspiration to so many of us in the arts community and beyond. Most people in Fort St. John have been touched, directly or indirectly, by Sue’s tireless efforts to make this community a better place. She brought boundless energy, enthusiasm and optimism to everything she took on, from her work over the decades with the local, regional and provincial Arts Councils, the Hospital Foundation, tourism and heritage, Stage North to the building of the North Peace Cultural Centre and the founding of the High on Ice Winter Festival, to name just a few areas that felt her impact.
Sue and her husband Sorin came to Fort St. John in 1974 to teach at North Peace Secondary School; she taught English, he taught French. Sue became involved in the arts very early on by producing the first musical at North Peace Secondary and becoming involved in the Community Arts Council. She helped establish Stage North and was a founding member of the Peace River North Festival Association. Over the years she never slowed down or stopped working at putting her visions for a better future into practice. After retiring from teaching, her next challenge was as executive director of the Hospital Foundation which she built into the force for good that it is today.
In the 1980’s Sue became part of the movement to bring a theatre to Fort St. John and no amount of controversy dimmed her enthusiasm for the project and no set back was big enough to deter her from making that dream a reality. Millions in fundraising and three referenda later, the North Peace Cultural Centre opened in 1992 and has been a hub of cultural activity in the region ever since. In the past year, Sue once again applied her vision, energy and prodigious fundraising capabilities to the Centre and a much-needed renovation of the theatre. Right to the end, Sue was taking part in formulating plans for the future. As always, she dreamed big and was fearless in putting dreams into action.
Sue was never one to rest on her laurels and over the years she continued to be active with the Arts Council, Stage North, the Peace River Zone Festival, Tourism and Heritage, as well as freely lending her expertise to any group that needed help and advising and encouraging anyone and everyone to get involved and rise to their full potential. With the Arts Council she was instrumental in launching programs such as the High on Ice Winter Festival, the flower pot project, the street banners, Alaska Highway 75th anniversary celebrations, among many others and also in establishing and maintaining the ArtsPost, which houses the Arts Council office, the North Peace Potters Guild studio, a permanent space for the North Peace Spinners & Weavers as well as meeting and creative space for other member groups. She was eager to develop better creative spaces to meet the growing demand in the community.
We will miss Sue’s energy, enthusiasm, and positive attitude. We will miss how she pushed and encouraged us to dream big, move forward and get things done. We will miss her friendship, the long chats at the ArtsPost and drawing on her seemingly endless well of experience and knowledge. We will miss how she challenged us with her constant flow of new ideas and plans for the future. We will miss being able to turn to Sue when we are discouraged by some setback, only to be buoyed by her support and cheerful optimism and inspired by the utter selflessness of everything she did. Nothing she did was ever done for personal gain or for praise or public recognition. She would just see a way that she could make this community a bit better place to live and then she would go out and make it happen and tow the rest of us along in her wake.
Thank-you, Sue, for everything.
A fund has been set up in Sue’s name to help carry on the work that she had started and to honour her legacy. Donations can be made to the Sue Popesku Arts Endowment Fund with an e-transfer to email@example.com or by cheque to the Fort St. John Community Arts Council sent to Box 6474, Fort St. John, BC, V1J 4H9.
The Arts Council will also hold a celebration of Sue’s life when the current health restrictions have been lifted.