AAN Sales Hero Cut Down in Prime of Life

Susan Crichton, former ad director for Gambit Weekly and an integral and beloved member of this trade association, passed away early Thursday morning. She was 44.

“She left our world as she lived in it, calm and graceful,” her husband, Russ Martineau, wrote in an e-mail to family and friends sent from the couple’s home in Portland, Ore. “She leaves behind a devoted husband who is grateful for every minute he shared with her and a baby boy who will miss his mommy for many years to come.”

Martineau and Crichton adopted a child, Cooper, in March 2002. She was diagnosed with cancer 14 months later.

Crichton began her career in advertising sales in 1983, in New Orleans, as an ad rep for Gambit. She became the paper’s ad director in 1985 and was there for 14 years before leaving late in 1997. By all accounts, she was a key figure in turning Gambit into one of AAN’s top revenue producers for its circulation size.

She served on the AAN Board for four years, first as ad chair from 1993-95, and then in an at-large position from 1995-97. During this period, she was also active in the creation of what later became the Alternative Weekly Network, serving as informal chair of the organization in 1994-96, when it was still part of AAN.

According to Executive Director Mark Hanzlik, AWN grew from 15 to 84 papers and from $260,000 to $2.3 million in annual revenue during the time Crichton led the network.

“We were all fortunate to know Susan and enjoy her joyous personality,” says Hanzlik. “She was a force in the creation of AWN. Susan was always there for all of us in the early days of our network, holding it together. I still wear the ugly green ‘AWN All-Stars’ hat that she made for us in 1997.”

Crichton’s romance with Martineau began during the 1995 AAN convention in Nashville, when Martineau was still head of sales and marketing at Willamette Week in Portland. They were married in November 1998.

After moving to Portland in 1998, she worked for four years as an advertising sales consultant, providing sales coaching, training workshops and designing marketing strategies for publishing clients around the country, including several AAN papers.

She joined Oregon Business Magazine in May 2002 as associate publisher and advertising director.

Crichton’s death precipitated an outpouring of grief in AAN circles among the many who knew and loved her.

“She was an amazing woman and an inspiration to many,” says Albie Del Favero, Village Voice Media executive vice president and publisher of the Nashville Scene, who served with Crichton on both the AAN and AWN boards of directors.

“Sue was a terrific woman,” says Brian Hieggelke, Newcity Editor/Co-Publisher and AWN President. “She got things done, but always in a way that oozed charm and grace.”

“Sue was a very special person. It’s such a huge loss,” says Howard Landsman, national advertising director for the Creative Loafing Newspaper Group and an AWN Board member.

“Sue was special because she’d figured out a way to be successful in business and be overwhelmingly nice at the same time,” says Jane Levine, publisher of Chicago Reader.

“The one thing I’ll always remember about Sue is that I could always make her laugh,” says AAN Executive Director Richard Karpel. “I would just give her a look and it would set her off. She was always so positive and cheerful it was like she constantly lived on the edge of delight.”

“I have never met anyone who was as strong as Sue, yet came across as soft as a whisper,” says Katherine Topaz of Topaz Design. “And while her passing is so unfair, the comfort that I take, is that I never saw her more happy than the last year of her life. It was obvious to everyone she knew, that finding Russ, and together finding Cooper, she found everything she ever wanted.”

A funeral mass will be held, Thursday, Aug. 21 at 10 am at Saint Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church in Riverside, Conn. Internment follows at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Greenwich.

In addition, a memorial service will be held Sunday, Aug. 24 at 5:30 pm at Council Crest Park in Portland.

Mark Hanzlik assisted in the preparation of this story.