Mary Susan O'Neill, of Mercer, PA, formerly of Bethel Park, on Wednesday, December 23, 2020, age 63, beloved daughter of Suzanne (Lauble) and the late Charles J. O'Neill, loving sister of Patricia Barker (John), Chuck (Diann), Dan (Denise), Michael (Lori), Timothy (Alida) and Mary Beth Frank (Kevin), also many nieces and nephews. Susan touched many lives of students whom she taught over her 20 year career with Seton Hill University as a Costume Director.
Susan had a long and prestigious career. During Susan’s tenure at Seton Hill as Costume Director was marked by her innovative costume design and her great love for her students. As a professional costume designer and member of New York's USA 829 since 1985, Susan designed costumes for theatre, dance and opera as well as being a published children's book illustrator and studio artist. She worked professionally under the world-renowned designer Ming Cho Lee, at Yale University, and studied teaching strategies and techniques with USITT.
Susan spent 11 years as the resident costume designer/coordinator for The Pittsburgh Opera, and 9 years as the resident designer for The Dance Alloy. Her costume designs and builds were seen at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Santa Fe Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, The Lincoln Center OUT-OF-DOORS Festival and Seattle Opera, as well as toured to three continents, and featured on major network television. Susan served as guest faculty member and costume designer at the Conservatory of the Performing Arts of Point Park University and a guest lecturer at Gustavus Adolphus College, MN, Allegheny College, PA, and Slippery Rock University, PA.
Speaking of her work at Seton Hill, Susan said: “It is a special privilege to have the opportunity to work with the young talent at Seton Hill, watching and inspiring students as they discover their inner talents.”
Susan’s love of animals, and in particular dogs, found her with an opportunity to visit Alaska and become a dog handler for the infamous Iditarod. (The Iditarod is a competitive race every year as commemoration of the 1925 Anchorage to Nome diphtheria serum delivery made by messengers to Nome’s lone physician, Dr. Curtis Welch, who feared an epidemic that could put the entire village of 1,400 at risk. Alaska territory’s governor, recruited the best drivers and dog teams to stage a round-the-clock relay to transport the serum from Nenana to Nome.)
Sue worked as an Iditarod Race Team Member during the races moving through multiple checkpoints over the 1,100 miles of terrain from Anchorage to Nome during the years of 1990-1994 assisting multiple dog handlers and mushers. These checkpoints were tented outposts in the wilds of Alaska and in some of the most threatening temperatures. Sue experienced many trials just getting to and working at these checkpoints, including a night when a polar bear that took down their tent. These checkpoints afforded the mushers & their dogs to rest, eat & get health checks.
Sue assisted in aiding in the dog’s care, feeding, healthcare and overall assessments to continue the race. In 1990, she also was able to assist Susan Butcher with her sled team throughout the race that she ended up winning for the fourth time and remains the only woman to win the race four consecutive years.
Visitation Sunday 2-4 & 6-8 p.m. at the David J. Henney Funeral Home, 6364 Library Road (RT 88), Library. Mass of Christian Burial Monday at 12:30 at St. Valentine Church.
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