Remembering Susan Sommer

Susan Lehman Sommer, 68, of Tremont, Ill., passed away at 2:56 p.m. on Saturday, April 23, at her home. Susan served on the board of The Mennonite, Inc., for 12 years, four of them as chair.

She was born July 11, 1947, in Bluffton, Ohio, to Carl M. and Sarah Miller Lehman. She married James T. Sommer on Aug. 18, 1968, in Bluffton, and he survives. Susan and Jim have four children and eight grandchildren. Susan graduated from Bluffton University with a bachelor’s degree in English.

She was a member of First Mennonite Church in Morton (Ill.) and was the founder and editor of Tremont News and Printing from 1987 to 1995. She was the executive administrator for the Illinois Mennonite Conference from 1996 to 2006.

Here, staff and board members of The Mennonite, Inc., remember and thank Susan for her many contributions to this publication:

“Susan was uniquely gifted to lead the board of directors of The Mennonite, Inc., for 12 years. Her experience as a publisher of a community newspaper meant she had journalism experience. Her leadership in Illinois Mennonite Conference and the Constituency Leaders Council meant she had a deep understanding of the issues before Mennonite Church USA. The combination of these experiences was immensely helpful to me as the editor of The Mennonite as we navigated many journalistic and church-polity challenges. We have lost a significant church leader.” Everett J. Thomas, editor emeritus, The Mennonite

“Susan was an accomplished newspaper executive and a strong church leader. She set the bar for leadership of The Mennonite, especially during a difficult period of Mennonite Church USA’s history. Her grace and calm demeanor are missed. Today’s readers, staff and board of The Mennonite are the beneficiaries of her enduring, positive influence on the organization as its board chair.” Barth Hague, current board chair, The Mennonite, Inc.

I think the narrative for her is calm leadership at a tense time, reconciliation rather than division. She seems to speak fittingly into this moment of church conflict.” Jason Moyer, current board member, The Mennonite, Inc.

“I only spoke to Susan twice on the phone. I had hoped to visit her during a recent trip to Illinois in April, but her health issues prevented us from meeting face to face. On these phone calls, we connected around our experiences at Bluffton University, our writing styles and preferences and our anticipation of spring weather that would allow us to get outdoors. Even in our short conversations, I sensed Susan’s wisdom, her calm demeanor, her support of me as I stepped into this role, and her deep love for God, the church and also, truly, for The Mennonite and its staff and board.” Hannah Heinzekehr, executive director, The Mennonite, Inc.

Susan was an example of calm patience yet expressed a firm conviction that came from a strong faith. She and I loved to talk about walking, one of her passions. She told me she not only kept track of her steps each day (before fit bit) but was a part of online discussion groups of walkers. We sometimes took walks during breaks in the board meetings. I miss her presence at those meetings. Gordon Houser, Editor, The Mennonite

Memorial gifts may be made to Camp Friedenswald 15406 Watercress Way Cassopolis, MI 49031-9532, or The Mennonite, Inc. 3145 Benham Ave, Suite 4 Elkhart, IN 46517.

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