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Biography of George and Sue Thelen: Home

Biography of George and Sue Thelen

Mary Susan Hoppenjans (Thelen) on August 19, 1937, became the second of five children born to Mr. and Mrs. William H. Hoppenjans.  Affectionately known to her family as Sue, she grew up in her birthplace of Covington, Kentucky, was an excellent student and leader, and attended Villa Madonna Academy.

George J. Thelen was born on May 14, 1936 in El Paso, Texas, the first son of George W. and Maureen Thelen.  They moved to a farm in Taylor Mill, Kentucky while George was an infant, and he was soon joined by three brothers.  George never lost his love for farming, especially growing corn.

George met his future wife at her "going away to the convent" party. When Sue left the convent to pursue the vocation of marriage, they dated and married on August 8, 1959.

George received a Master's degree in Civil Engineering at University of Notre Dame and the young couple returned to Northern Kentucky with Maribeth, age one, and Jenny on the way. Their only son, Jay, and their last daughter, Becky, soon followed.  The Thelen children were educated in Catholic schools through college. All are married and have given their parents seventeen grandchildren.

While the children were being raised, George's career as an engineer took off. He opened his own firm, GJ Thelen & Associates in his early 40's. Throughout his life, George was active on planning commissions, bank boards, and was a generous philanthropist. After the children were raised, Sue joined his firm and established a computer system for billing and payroll.  He sold the firm to his employees and retired at age 50.

Sue's life journey was blessed by her wonderful family.  However, it was also marked with valiant, faith-filled battles to maintain her mental and physical health. From her early 20’s through the rearing of her children, she suffered with anxiety, depression, and, later, alcoholism. After several attempts to get assistance, Sue entered a rehabilitation program. She then lived a happy and healthy lifestyle for the next 10 years, until she died of cancer on May 29, 1996.

After Sue passed away, George married Judith Ann Penker, a fun-loving, talented and successful entrepreneur and mother of four. They enjoyed a long and loving marriage of 23 years with their combined family.  George died on Sept. 2, 2020 of COVID-19 at the age of 84.

It is in tribute to Sue’s successful lifelong battle with anxiety and depression that George and the family became benefactors and supported the naming of the DMU Library in her memory and honor.  With George's passing, we also honor him for his support and generosity.