LRIW Says Goodbye to Connie Sumara, Longtime MemberMarch 12, 2014. The railway industry lost a bright light on March 2 with the sudden passing of LRIW member, Connie Sumara. Connie was a longtime leader of the League of Railway Industry Women. As evidence of her dedication to our organization, Connie won every award we have to offer – Outstanding Woman of the Year (2000) and Outstanding Member of the Year (2007). She was LRIW’s longest-serving president.
A contingent of LRIW board members attended Connie’s memorial service in Chicago to express their condolences to her family.
In her career, Connie was a dedicated employee of Chicago Freight Car Leasing Co (CFCL) for 26 years, beginning her career as office manager and ultimately working her way up to Vice President & Director of Customer Support before retiring in November of 2012. She was a major contributor through a significant period of growth at CFCL. Fred Sasser Chairman of CFCL and his wife Pam spoke at Connie’s service about Connie’s accomplishments and fun loving nature.
“I first met Connie at an LRIW conference about 16 years ago and some of my fondest memories are times when we were dressed in our jeans, steel-toed boots, safety goggles and hard hats touring railcar plants or other rail facilities. I’ll never forget the pride she had when we were on a tour of Domino Sugar’s operation and Connie saw her company’s railcars in action. We all called them ‘Connie’s cars’,” said Kathy Keeney, Publisher at Rail Resource and LRIW Scholarship Chair.
Even in retirement, Connie remained active in the rail industry as CFCL’s liaison with Illinois Operation Lifesaver where she visited schools, municipalities and other organizations to deliver IOL’s safety and education messages. She also continued her position on the LRIW Board of Directors as Director at Large.
Connie was a master at working a room and connecting people. Her leadership roles at the LRIW were a natural fit for her because she enjoyed sharing her experiences in working her way up the corporate ladder in a male-dominated industry in her 25 years at Chicago Freight Car. She served as a mentor for many young women at Chicago Freight Car and dozens of women she met through her LRIW connections.
Her legacy will live on through her family, including son Richard and her grandchildren, all the people whose lives she touched and through the railway organization she nurtured and loved so much.
The women of the League of Railway Industry Women feel honored to have had Connie within our ranks – her professionalism, her spunk and her dedication moved LRIW forward and for that we are incredibly thankful.