Julie Mancini, who helped build Portland’s reputation as a book lover’s paradise, has died at 73

Julie Mancini, who has made a huge imprint on Portland’s cultural scene thanks to her pioneering work with organizations such as the Literary Arts, Mercy Corps, and the Writers in Schools Program, He passed away on Monday, August 29, at the age of 73.

Mancini’s eldest son, Peter Bromka, said the cause of death was lung cancer, which Mancini was diagnosed with in 2021. Mancini’s husband, Dennis Bromka, and her two sons, Peter and Alec, were with her when Mancini died in Providence St. Vincent. Monday evening medical center.

“It was a strength,” Peter Bromka said Thursday. “She poured every ounce of her energy into every single day. She pushed herself all the time. She wasn’t a quiet soul who did yoga, and she drank tea. She blew rock music and drank Diet Coke.”

Mancini’s drive, passion, and ability to shape society helped make her one of the most important cultural leaders in Portland’s modern history, according to those who knew her.

Among her most significant accomplishments was helping to transform Portland from a city that authors might consider a secluded region to a destination that welcomes and celebrates writers, books, and the arts. Having taken over the Portland Arts & Lecturesn in 1985, Mancini has built the series into one of the hottest tickets in town, attracting such notables as Toni Morrison, Gary Trudeau, Doris Lessing, Joan Didion, Philip Roth, and many more.

Countless Portlanders saw that Mancini, in her role as producer of the series, enthusiastically presented guests on stage before selling out to the crowds at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

“Julie has been fantastic,” said Andrew Proctor, CEO. literary arts The organization was created when Portland Arts and Lectures merged with the Oregon Institute of Literary Arts, in 1993. “She was sarcastic, hilarious, stubborn, impatient, and radically imaginative. She wasn’t interested in bureaucracy, and she got things done.”

Proctor came to Portland to take on the CEO role in 2009, after Mancini left Portland Arts and Lectures in 2000, though he said she remained an invaluable source of advice.

Despite her deep investment in the organization, Proctor was impressed by how willing Mancini was to see it develop.

“She had very strong opinions, and we didn’t always agree on everything,” Proctor said. “But she was always interested in seeing the organization’s progress. She didn’t want to be frozen in time, even after she left. That’s why she was such a cultural force and a leader. She wasn’t interested in petrification.”

Proctor said Mancini has had such an impact on Portland that it is “hard to quantify.” For example, when I left Portland for Arts and Lectures, the budget was $750,000, and we had a $1 million endowment in the bank. Very few managers leave organizations in such a dizzying shape. We still have to this day the largest live audience for literary events in the country. This is Julie Mancini.

In addition to her work with literary arts programs, Mancini also helped launch Caldera, a program focused on arts and nature for young people. she was Mercy Corps Duty Center Manager, The headquarters of the International Humanitarian Organization in Portland.

Mancini, who grew up in Rochester, New York, earned a master’s degree in child development from Tufts University. Having started her career as a teacher, Mancini later returned to youth-focused programs as executive director of College Possible, a nonprofit organization that works to help students from diverse backgrounds attend college and complete their studies. Mancini left College Possible in 2020.

As news of Mancini’s death spread this week, tributes to her have appeared on social media and elsewhere.

“I can tell you from my emails, texts, and calls that there are a lot of broken hearts in Portland,” said Bart Eberwin, a longtime friend of Mancini and a former member of the Board of Directors for the Literary Arts.

“Julie was very likable,” Eberwin said. “I think a lot of us fell in love with her when she went out on stage six or seven times a year to perform for a famous composer at Schnitz[Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall]and it was so funny and real.”

Eberwin said it was easy to feel “blessed by this huge and generous spirit that she had. She believed she could change the world, and she enjoys doing it.”

Peter Bromka, Mancini’s son, created a website that, he wrote, “aims to celebrate and share the impact she has had on us all.” And for her reckless approach and love of colorful language, the site is called “julie (f-word) mancini.com”.

Bromka, 41, said he wanted the website to try to “capture and amplify all the little shards of her soul that people carry. It was our family, but what I learned as I got older is how many people around the world feel like part of our family.”

Bromka said members of the Mancini family are looking forward to holding an event to celebrate Mancini’s life in October. At the moment, he said he’s thinking about how his mom was attracted to Portland and moved here “with my dad about 50 years ago, and after a little while, I started to see where she could help, how she could make it better. She had countless skills to make things better, Which is what drew people to her, I think.”

Part of what made his mother special, Bromka said, was how “she really believed in people’s ability to create and inspire, and that was so real. People said to me, ‘I’m going to try to live the way she saw me, and live up to that standard. I just want people to continue to believe’.” themselves the way you believe in them. I know that’s what I’m going to try to do, and I hope they do too.”

– Kristi Turnquist

503-221-8227; kturnquist@oregonian.com; Tweet embed

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