If you’re reading this memorial, then you knew Sue Duffy. What? You say you didn’t know her? I beg to differ. If you’ve enjoyed the parade at the King William Fair just once over the last eleven years, then you did know Sue Duffy, who passed away in May.
Although known most recently as our Chief Parade Wrangler, Sue’s relationship with King William was quite long. Decades ago, she performed on our stages as an Irish dancer, and she managed portions of the parade before being tapped to “chair” the event, a title she quickly dumped in favor of something more accurate in her point of view.
Sue invested countless hours all year round planning, recruiting, vetting, encouraging and organizing parade entries. Sue considered the parade to be a moving stage, with carefully choreographed rhythm and balance. She brought many innovations to the parade, like book handouts from Half Price Books and roller skaters from Alamo City Roller Derby, who colorfully manage the gap between parade entries. With the help of Skully from the Roller Derby, Sue started a tradition of modifying the Fair volunteer t-shirt with extra bling and pizazz. Sue did all this and did not even live in King William (although her Parade Gopher and son, Ryan Orsinger, lived for a time in Lavaca).
Sue put a bit of herself into each parade: a bit quirky, a bit conservative, a bit loud, a bit quiet, a bit book loving, a bit music loving, a great bit fun. Over the last eleven years, the parade reflected Sue’s love of history, learning, creativity, diversity and inclusion.
Sue’s approach to the parade was likely informed by her years as an Air Force “brat” living in Germany and backpacking across Europe. She spoke German and studied Gaelic, liked cooking vegetarian dishes, baking cookies, and gardening. Sue crafted asymmetrical jewelry, concocted flavored vodkas, collected huipil (embroidered tunics from South America), and hunted bargains from exotic foods to fancy shoes. While Sue abhorred technology in her personal life, she was a power user at work.
Sue gave away seeds of the purple hyacinth vine in honor of her brother, Bill, who predeceased her. While she could have purchased these Oreo-cookie looking seeds from Ali Baba Market en masse (the plant and its seeds are eaten in parts of the world), Sue carefully cultivated her own seeds from the plant that Bill grew in New Orleans and from its Texas descendants. (Look for some here in King William). Sue also gave away books for World Book Night. One year the book was Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which Sue reveled in sharing — maybe because Atwood once said, “Giving away a story is an act of trust.”
Sue had several circles of friends that sometimes overlapped but sometimes did not: her son’s friends, lawyers, book club members, AIDS victims advocates, and folks she met at festivals. In her not-so-quiet, quiet way, Sue directly touched the hearts of many. Indirectly, she touched many thousands more who delighted in her parade or read the books passed their way.
How fitting that King William honored Sue’s life with a mini-parade around King William Park on June 2, 2017. How fitting that Camille Garcia from the Rivard Report was on hand to report the stories of joy and remembrance shared by Sue’s friends and family. Sue may be gone, but her legacy is great.
- Rose Kanusky