Suzanne Marie Hartung, a longtime educator, administrator and activist in Davenport, Iowa, and a one-time candidate for mayor, passed away Feb. 27 in Jacksonville, Illinois. She was 76. She had moved to Jacksonville in January to be nearer to her family, but Davenport was home.
Suzy was born Jan. 19, 1947, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. When she was in first grade, the family moved to Davenport for her father’s job with Oscar Mayer. She graduated from (and later taught at) Central High School and earned a B.A. in secondary education/English from Marycrest University. Her area of specialization was intercultural education and communication.
Among her many positions, Suzy served as vice president and dean of student development at Marycrest; director of student development for European Programs for Emerson College, Boston, during which she was based in western Europe for 2½ years; regional coordinator of the Iowa Volunteer Mentor Program; president of the Board of Directors of Generations Area Agency on Aging; chairman of the Davenport Human Relations Commission; program manager for the Community Mentor & Job Coach Program; and president of the board of directors of the Central and West Neighborhood Corp., an inner-city organizing group.
Suzy had a vibrant faith life and had considered becoming a nun. She was a longtime member of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Davenport and was an associate with the Congregation of the Humility of Mary.
She had a soft spot for people who were struggling: students who had dropped out, elders who had given up. In her jobs, in her family, in the downtown apartment buildings where she lived, she always reached out. Suzy was known mostly as a calming presence and a peacemaker. Yet she wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers when necessary. In 1975, for example, when she was only 28, Suzy ran for mayor as an independent candidate. She declared that she was deeply concerned about the “ineptness and rigidity of community agencies [that] spend too much time worrying about who is going to get credit for things they do.”
In a Quad-City Times interview in 1999, Suzy summed up her teaching and administrative philosophy: “What I’ve tried to do is make my work be my ministry. I think of administration as service, not power. I just took a very definite personal interest in my students…. I loved working with those young people [at the Drop-In Center] because I [grew to] genuinely respect the dignity of folks who so often were coming from situations where they weren’t respected.”
A lifetime of neurological, respiratory and diabetic challenges didn’t slow her down. “I really was feeling ‘poor me’ for a while,” she said in that interview. “Then it was like a revelation: Life is a gift and every minute is a gift. What we do with it is up to us. We can squander it, we can feel sorry for ourselves, or we can try to live as fully as possible.”
Suzy was preceded in death by her parents, Peter and Jeanne Hartung; her stepmother, Mary Elizabeth “Libb” Hartung; and her brother Mark Hartung. She is survived by three siblings: Judith Hance (Charles) of Beardstown, Illinois; Ronald Hartung (Ruth) of Tallahassee, Florida; and Pamela Gunderson (Robert) of Redmond, Washington. She also leaves behind dozens of nieces, nephews and their own growing families, plus more friends and fans than you could count.
A Memorial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 4, at St. Alexius Catholic Church in Beardstown, Illinois. Burial will take place in the St. Alexius Catholic Cemetery following the services. There will be no visitation. Colwell Memorial Home in Beardstown is handling arrangements. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E26071&id=2