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Sue Lifson
October 20, 2013

Sue Lifson, 76, of Mount Vernon, passed away on Oct. 10, 2013, at the Dennis & Donna Oldorf Hospice House of Mercy in Hiawatha. As a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, librarian and dearest friend, Sue had a zest for life that will be deeply missed by her family and friends.

Sue grew up on a farm near Winchester, Ind., where her father, Rev. Wayne E. Janney, was a Congregationalist minister and her mother, Roberta Janney, had taught English and ran the junior church. While her sister, Pat, climbed trees and hopped rooftops, Sue would find secret hideouts to read - the beginning of a lifelong love of books.

She received her undergraduate degree from Ball State. After teaching three years of high school English, journalism and theater (it took two faculty members to replace her), she had a decision to make: Buy a sports car or go to graduate school. Fortunately, she chose to pursue her MLS at Indiana University in Bloomington, where she fell in love with an unlikely match - a Jewish art student from New York City named Hugh Lifson.

Sue and Hugh were married on Dec. 23, 1961, at a ceremony that was hours delayed because the groom's half of the wedding party was caught in a blizzard. Commenting on her 50-plus years of marriage, Sue always said there "was never a dull moment."

And she was right. The young Lifsons first lived in a tiny apartment in Greenwich Village while Hugh taught art in Newark and Sue ran the children's program at the Brooklyn Public Library. From there they moved to Memphis at the height of the civil rights movement, then to Mount Vernon, which has been their home since 1963. A lifetime of travel followed - living in Florence and London, and visiting Greece, France, Ireland, the Southwest and Cape Cod - always sharing their love of art and culture.

Sue was a "working mom" before it was the norm, balancing her career and home life with her two growing children - Jeffrey, born in 1964, and Amy, born in 1967. She worked in the Cedar Rapids Prairie School District and then transitioned to the Cornell College library in 1975. She relished the reference detective work in her career (perhaps influenced by her love of mystery novels) and trained more than 600 student workers during her 24 years there. At the same time, Sue was an active member of the League of Women Voters and Ingleside, the prestigious women's literary club founded more than100 years ago.

Since her retirement in 1999 as professor emerita, Sue became involved with her new church, First Presbyterian in Mount Vernon, lending her organizational talents, especially in need when the church was damaged by lightning. She also rolled up her sleeves in a newfound passion for gardening - Sue had an eye for beauty and space that made her garden a place to stop, slow down, and linger. Sue rejoiced in beauty, her family, laughter and friendship, and we will remember the times spent with her, laughing and enjoying the life she had created.

Sue is survived by her husband, Hugh; her children, Jeff (wife Stephanie) and Amy (husband Steven); her sister, Pat Good; her 105-year-old mother, Roberta Janney; and her dearest grandchildren, Amanda and Josh Lifson, and Jack, Hannah and Noah Cosby.

A Celebration of Life will be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Mount Vernon on Saturday, Oct. 26. Join the family for food and fellowship from 2 to 4 p.m., with a service at 3 p.m.

Instead of flowers, donations can be made in Sue's name to the First Presbyterian Church, 301 First St. N.W., Mount Vernon, IA 52314, or to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Please sign the online guest book and share a memory about Sue at

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