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Town rights commission cofounder dies at 66

Susan Papanek McHughMcHugh

UPDATED Aug. 4: Susan Rachel McHugh, a cofounder of the Arlington Human Rights Commission in 1993 and its first chairwoman, died in June after a brief illness at age 66.

Those who worked with her remembered her immediately after her June 20 passing. The Boston Globe published her obituary July 31.

Sheri Baron, a Precinct 7 Town Meeting member, first reported the news in June. She wrote that her friend "devoted countless hours to forming the commission and providing leadership in its infancy. She was a woman of great strength, commitment to justice and true compassion."

Miriam Stein of Arlington responded in June: "This is very sad news. Sue exemplified all the wonderful qualities Sheri mentioned.

"I loved working with her on diversity issues in town. She was very creative in developing new strategies that helped bring a new approach to the issues. Her vision was responsible for a 1992 first-ever forum on diversity issues in the schools where Pearl Morrison told the audience and the press that there were no teachers or administrators in the Arlington Public Schools.

“'Guess you just don’t want people like me teaching your children,'” Morrison said. This statement and other information brought clear attention to the dearth of diverse staff. 


She is survived by her husband of 42 years, Steve; their daughters, Rachel (Binford) of Wilmette, Ill., and Caroline of Brooklyn; son-in-law, Dennis Binford; and granddaughter, Daisy Suzanne Binford.

She is also survived by her brother, Michael Papanek, and his wife, Robyn, of San Rafael, Calif.; and her sister, Deborah, and husband, Cris Ferreira, of Mahopac, N.Y.

She was very fond of her uncle Gus; cousin Joanne; and an extended family of nieces, nephews, in-laws, and high school, college and community friends.

Sue was the oldest daughter of George Papanek and Miriam Lewin, whose families escaped Europe before the Holocaust. That background set her on her course as an attorney, mediator and advocate.


She graduated from the University of Rochester in 1977 and went on to earn her law degree at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Sue began her legal career with Robinson & Cole in Hartford, Conn., in 1981 and then moved to the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office as an assistant attorney general in the consumer protection division.

She next joined the counsel's office at the Massachusetts Department of Education and later became a mediator for the Bureau of Special Education Appeals.

After Sue retired in 2010, she served as an advocate for children with special needs in Massachusetts schools.

A longtime resident of Arlington, she was a faithful member of Temple Shir Tikvah, Winchester. She was the vice president of education on the temple board for several years.

Sue volunteered extensively for a variety of other town and school activities, including tutoring early English-learners at the Hardy School.

Sue was a ready listener with the patience and interest to learn and care for others. Her curious nature, keen insight, and infectious laugh will be greatly missed.

Donations in Sue's honor may be made to the Friends of Menotomy Rocks Park.

The family is planning a local celebration-of-life gathering this fall.

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This news summary was published Sunday, July 31, 2022, based on information from the Globe obituary and from comments from two residents, one added Aug. 4.

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