FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The City of Fort St. John bestowed its highest honour to the late Sue Popesku on Saturday in a memorial ceremony at the North Peace Cultural Centre — a building Popesku was instrumental in establishing.

Dozens gathered in the theatre to remember Popesku, a legendary figure of arts, culture, and heritage in the Peace region. Popesku also founded and was the executive director of the Fort St. John Hospital Foundation.

Mayor Lori Ackerman reflected on Popesku’s impact on the community, defining her as a “community builder.”

“I remember her first starting the hospital foundation, and how someone could plant the seed for what we have now out of that little tiny, you could call it a storage closet, I’ll never know,” Ackerman recalled.

“She was one of the key people in our community. When I first heard of Sue’s passing, my first thought was, who would fill those shoes? And as I stand here and look at all of you seated, I can see that she built the future. You are here. You are engaged,” Ackerman said.

Popesku’s son, Jason Popesku, spoke of his mother’s legacy, recalling the times he’d tag along with her and play on the floor while she attended meetings.

“I remember spending countless hours playing in the original arts-base just kitty-corner here while she toiled that paperwork for whatever it was she was involved with at the time,” Jason recollected.

“Mom didn’t do what she did for money. She did it because she believed in cultural advancement, creativity, and community. She had a passion and dedication to inspiring others and an unwavering devotion to the arts,” Jason said.

Others remembered Popesku for her energy, warmth and tenacity in working to make the community a better place. 

She was famous for saying, “the world is run by those who showed up.”

Many reflected on the numerous times Popesku showed up for her community, documenting events for local non-profits or working to advance the arts & culture scene in Fort St. John.

When recognized at the 2015 FSJ Community Awards, Popesku said this during her acceptance speech for the Cultural Award:

“We’re only as good as the people we work with, and many of you out there have made so, so many good changes in Fort St. John; I think it’s wonderful you’ve all been recognized.”

The ceremony also featured performances by the North Peace Community Choir, NLC Youth Choir, and Studio 2 Stage.

Popesku made incredible contributions to the community over her life as a teacher, leader, and tireless advocate for arts and culture in the region.

She played vital roles in institutions, including the North Peace Cultural Centre, the North Peace Historical Society, Stage North, ArtsPost, Peace River North Festival Association, and the Fort St. John Arts Council.

To view a digital archive of material showcasing the Peace region’s rich arts, culture, and heritage history that Popesku and others collected, click here.

Popesku passed April 19th, 2020, at the age of 72.

The Freedom of the City Award is the city of Fort St. John’s highest honour. It is only awarded in exceptional cases and is used to recognize individuals who have made the most significant contributions to the community.

Spencer Hall is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca and a recent graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Radio Arts & Entertainment program. Growing up in Northwest B.C. made Spencer aware of the importance of local journalism, independent media, and reconciliation. In his spare time, you can find Spencer reading, playing video games, or at the FSJ dog park with his dog, Teddy.