MCHS Mourns Passing of Two Women With Close Ties to Museum and Society

Suzanne Dietrich

MCHS was saddened to hear of the death of two women with close ties to the work of the museum and society, Suzanne Dietrich, of Edwardsville, and Mae Grapperhaus, of Troy. Dietrich, a former director of the Madison County Historical Museum and Archival Library, passed away on June 10 and Grapperhaus, a member of the MCHS Board 2006-2020, died on June 5.

Suzanne Dietrich, 86, died on June 10, 2021, in Edwardsville, Illinois. Suzanne retired in 2016 after serving 17 years as director of the Madison County Historical Museum and Archival Library.

The daughter of Charles and Evelyn (Waters) Dietrich, Suzanne was born in Granite City on April 9, 1937. Her father’s work took the family to Pennsylvania when she was younger, but they returned to Madison County in time for Suzanne to attend Edwardsville High School where she graduated in 1954Dietrich earned an undergraduate degree in Radio, Television and Film from Northwestern University in Chicago as well as a master’s degree in Public Communications from Boston University. After graduating she obtained a job with the public television station in Springfield, Illinois, but returned to Edwardsville to care for her parents.

Dietrich became reacquainted with the Madison County Historical Museum and Library in 1990 when she began researching the sesquicentennial history of St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Edwardsville. A few years later she served on the committee researching and gathering materials for a local book, Edwardsville: An Illustrated History (1997). The following year she was invited to serve on the MCHS Board.

After only a short time on the Board, Anna Symanski, the director of the museum, had to resign suddenly for personal reasons. Knowing Dietrich’s qualifications, Symanski asked if she would consider serving as interim director until a replacement could be found. In March, 1999, Dietrich agreed to do the job for six months. And the rest, as they say, is history.

During Dietrich’s tenure, the MCHS property grew from a single museum building to a complex that also includes a library, a collections center and a fourth building that will one day allow for expansion of the library. Dietrich, with the MCHS Board, obtained the grants and raised funds to build the Madison County Archival Library, which opened in 2002.

Over the years, Dietrich received numerous awards for her dedication to her job and her community. Some of the many awards she was given include the Athena Award from the Chamber of Commerce for the “highest level of professional accomplishment,” and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society (ISHS), and a Preservation Award from the Goshen Preservation Alliance. She was also named as a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club. In addition to her work in Madison County, she also served on the Illinois State Historical Society Board.

When Dietrich took the position of museum director, she came with memories of childhood visits to the museum when it was located in the Madison County Court House. During her childhood, her grandfather, William L. Waters, of Godfrey, served on the MCHS Board, including several terms as president. MCHS was an organization that she felt a connection to her entire life, something that has been a great advantage to the Society and for the preservation of Madison County history.

MCHS is grateful to Dietrich’s family, her brother Chuck Dietrich and her nephew Charles Dietrich, who designated MCHS as one of the organizations for memorials in her honor.

Mae Grapperhaus

Mary “Mae” Olivia (Mersinger) Grapperhaus, 82, of rural Troy, passed away on Saturday, June
5, 2021 in Troy, Illinois. Mae was born on June 30, 1938, the daughter of Oscar and Louise (nee Levo) Mersinger in Highland, Illinois, and was a life-long resident of Troy, Illinois. She married James Grapperhaus on June 10, 1961.

Mae was a 1956 graduate of McCray Dewey High School in Troy. She later studied journalism at SWIC and SIU-Edwardsville, followed by work as both editor and reporter of the Troy Times Tribune. After retiring, she continued to promote the heritage of her favorite city by writing a history column for the newspaper.

She was active in many organizations in Troy including work as a founder and past president of the Troy Historical Society and the Troy Genealogical Society, making her the “go to” person for anyone seeking information on the history of Troy. She received many awards for her participation in community activities including the Illinois Women of Achievement Award in 2000 and Troy Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year Award in 2002.

Her work with the Madison County Historical Society was greatly appreciated and the Society extends condolences to her six children, their spouses and her many grandchildren who brought her much delight.