Sue Castile, executive director of Inter-Faith Ministries since 2009, was found dead at her northeast Wichita home by friends on Friday afternoon.
She was 50.
Ms. Castile beat out 150 other applicants in 2009 to get the head job at Inter-Faith Ministries, a 125-year old organization at 917 N. Market that helps serve and shelter homeless people.
Before that, she'd worked for more than a decade leading Diversity Kansas, an organization that worked to bridge racial and ethnic differences in the community.
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On Saturday, Ms. Castile's friends remembered her as a life-loving woman whose mission on the job matched her beliefs.
"She was a real advocate for the underdog in her business," said Carla Venable, who discovered Ms. Castile at home on Friday afternoon. "She had a way of trying to bring everyone together so we could all just have a connection. And that wasn't a 9-to-5 thing. She lived that in her personal life, too."
Ms. Castile, who was named one of The Wichita Eagle's "10 to Watch" in 2010, also had served as a volunteer for Communities in Schools and on the Sedgwick County Taskforce to End Chronic Homelessness.
Ms. Castile, who was single, cherished her large group of friends, Venable said.
She often spoke to her friends of the difficulties she faced growing up in the foster system.
"She was in and out of foster homes all the time, so the strikes were against Sue," Venable said. "Yet this was a woman who rose above all these conflicts and roadblocks and kept moving forward. She was a very positive woman."
Michelle Wessling Fisher, who formed a friendship with Castile when they worked together at Diversity Kansas, flew back to Wichita from her home in Denver when she heard the news.
Fisher described her friend as a natural bridge-builder who truly cared about the clients she served and was well-loved by many.
"People who have sent me e-mails and texts all have said the same thing: 'This is devastating,'" Fisher said.
Ms. Castile loved her two elderly dogs, a German short-haired pointer named Sydney and a chocolate Lab named Sampson, and she enjoyed entertaining, gardening and going to the movies with friends. She was conscientious about her health and always watched what she ate.
When Ms. Castile did not arrive for work Friday morning, Venable said, her colleagues called a neighbor, who called Venable. She and another friend went to Castile's house to check on her and discovered her in the kitchen, dressed and ready for work.
She is survived by her brother Gerry Davis, nephew Jeremy Davis, foster mother Susan Colony and several foster siblings.
Services for Ms. Castile are scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at College Hill United Methodist Church.
Visitation with friends and family will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at Downing & Lahey Mortuary East, 6555 E. Central.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Inter-Faith Ministries, 829 N. Market, Wichita KS 67214, and the Kansas Humane Society, 3313 N. Hillside, Wichita KS 67219. Tributes may be sent to the family via www.dlwichita.com.