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Cane River NHA Mourns Passing of Former President and CEO Cynthia Sutton

NATCHITOCHES, LA – Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc. (CRNHA, Inc.) mourns the loss of Cynthia Sutton, 68, retired President and CEO of Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc., who passed away peacefully on July 24, 2019, in Stronghurst, Illinois.

“The Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc. board of directors and employees are saddened by the passing of Cynthia—a passionate advocate for the preservation of Cane River’s diverse culture and heritage resources. Through her drive and leadership, Cynthia was instrumental in building innovative private public-partnerships across the region, including with two of the region’s most prized attractions, the Los Adaes State Historic Site and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Grand Ecore Visitor Center,” said Rebecca Blankenbaker, CRNHA, Inc. Executive Director. “Even after her retirement, Cynthia remained a close friend and mentor to me, the organization, the community, and our partners. Her tireless drive, compassion and humility were cornerstones of her leadership and live on in our organization’s values to this day.”

 A native of Illinois, Cynthia Gittings married James Sutton on June 2, 1969, in Richmond, VA. The couple later divorced. They are the parents of two daughters. Sutton graduated from Dallas City High School in 1968 from Carl Sandburg College in 1981 and from Western Illinois University with a Masters of Arts degree in 1990. She accepted an internship with the Illinois State Archives then later accepted a position with the Center for American Archaeology. She resigned as a director and moved to Wolfeboro, NH where she was the director of the Wright Museum of World War II History. She left New Hampshire in 2006 and became the director of the Cane River National Heritage Area in Natchitoches, LA in 2007.

During her tenure Sutton worked tirelessly to build relationships with local partners, like the City of Natchitoches, serving as Chair of the Natchitoches Tricentennial Commission and sharing her expertise on numerous City initiatives like the Natchitoches Parks Initiative in 2016-2017 and the Natchitoches Riverbank Redevelopment Project. Cynthia retired from Cane River National Heritage Area in August 2018.

Throughout her career, Sutton was the recipient of many awards and recognitions but was proudest of the Key to the City of Natchitoches that was presented to her by Mayor Lee Posey at her retirement ceremony.

Cynthia was preceded in death by her parents Roger W. and Martha Jean (Ollis) Gittings and her grandparents Guy H. and Thelma Ollis.

She is survived by one brother, two daughters Samantha (Douglas) Ross of Hope Mills, NC, and Jillian (Joey) Bundy of Terre Haute, Illinois. Two grandchildren Madalyn Ross and Matthew Bundy and two nephews.

A private memorial ceremony will be held in Natchitoches, LA. A Memorial has been established for PAWS Animal Shelter in Ft. Madison, IA.


Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that manages the congressionally designated Cane River National Heritage Area. Its mission is to preserve and promote the cultural and natural resources of Cane River and encourage economic development by strengthening heritage tourism in the region.