Question of the Week
Sue and I go way back to our early days of handling, but I think my favorite memories are when she used to put on a fashion show on the Canine College Cruise. No one ever said no to her dressing them, and I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my life. She was so special, such a great “dog person” and such a perfect friend.
The epitome of grace and class. Always so gracious and kind. Looked so put together all the time. A real lady.
Haw River, North Carolina
Growing up in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, I was profoundly influenced by three women: Pauline Waterman, Gretchen Shultz and Sue Vroom.
Sue was like a second mother to many of the assistant in the LA area, and I was fortunate to have been taken under her wing. Sue was the embodiment of the SoCal lifestyle: big, bold and brassy. Sue taught me many things about the dog-show business, she taught me the California style, it’s a show, but it’s also a business. Sue always gave us guidance to keep your eye on the prize.
About six months into being an assistant, we had a particularly difficult weekend. I was standing by the group ring and Sue said, “You're doing good, kid. Stick with it.” It was the exact encouragement I needed at that time. Sue always kept an eye on what the kids were doing. She would often offer advice and guidance, and was always encouraging to me, yet she told a blunt truth that was often needed. She knew the assistants who were worth the time and the ones who were not, and she wasn’t afraid to tell you.
After Corky and Sue’s retirement, I would see Sue as a rep at shows, and we always talked about the old days; in a way it was like going home and confessing your sins to mom. I can honestly say I have no bad memories of Sue.
In 2019, Sue judged the Non-Sporting Group at the AKC Puppy & Junior Stakes. My Standard Poodle won the group under Sue, and when we took the win photo I thanked her and she told me she was glad to do it.
As I started to walk away, she said to me, “Hey, kid, you’ve done great. I’m proud of you, and I know Joe [Waterman] and Pauline would be, too.” It moved me to tears: The win was good, but Sue’s recognition meant the world to me. I will miss Sue; she was an icon of the sport. Her style and her compassion are sadly lacking today. RIP, Sue.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
At a dog show where Sue Vroom was working, a highly agitated exhibitor came roaring up to her, spitting and foaming at the mouth about another exhibitor.
“AND HE SAID AND I SAID AND THEN HE DID THAT AND THEN I DID THIS AND, AND, AND ...” When he finally stopped to take a breath, Sue said, “Do you still smoke?”
He said, “Yes. Why?”
Sue quietly, very calmly, said, “Why don’t you go outside and have a cigarette and calm down.”
They was only one Sue. She will be sorely missed.
Las Vegas, Nevada
My favorite memory (of which there are lots) is when I lived in Southern California. I was the highest bidder at an event in which I and two guests could have lunch at a fire station in Hollywood. Of course the first people I thought of were Sue and her and Corky's assistant, Tiffany Saxon. As those who knew Sue and Tiffany, these were two of the most beautiful ladies in the world!
Once we got to the fire station we were introduced to the firemen who were going to cook the lunch and eat with us. This included two brothers who were firemen at the station and who were equally as handsome as Sue and Tiffany were beautiful. Of course, the firemen stood and sat by their sides during the whole fire-station tour. We also went on a fire engine ride!
We three were all dressed up in the firemen's uniforms used when they go on a response to a fire. I have a picture of us all in the gear and with our fire hats on ... Of course the two firemen brothers were standing next to Sue and Tiffany ... and poor me was barely seen ... (Just kidding: Those who know me know that I live for the spotlight!)
Each time I saw Sue at the shows, she and I would discuss that time and the firemen who were glued to her side. I miss Sue so much, and my memories will always be with me. Ring that fire bell, my dear Sue ... Oh, that is impossible, as they only have harps in Heaven. Love you, my sweet Sue.
Like the trains in Italy, the dog shows that Sue repped ran on time. No judge wanted to look up to see Sue outside the ring discreetly tapping her watch.
At one show, the schedule was tight, with the judges being moved from ring to ring. The venue was large and spread out. I left one ring, still on time, but by the time I hiked to my next ring, I was behind schedule. As I huffed into the ring, short of breath, Sue was there. With her signature look of mischief mixed with authority, she leaned close to me and said, “Tick tock.”
Our dog world is not the same now. A huge force of warmth, expertise, laughter and passion for dogs and our sport is gone. I think a lot of us wanted to be Sue Vroom when we grew up.
Such a terrible year, and we all mourn those we have lost, including Matt and Sue.
I knew Sue for more than 30 years and have so many stories, as I am sure most people do!
The last time I saw Sue, right before the Covid lockdown, we laughed at an old story that Sue always said was her favorite involving both of us.
In 1990 Sue was going to help me show a few of my English Cockers at a circuit in North San Diego County. Sue told Corky to go ahead with the truck, dogs, etc. I would swing by their house and pick her up so she could ride with me.
After three hours of laughing, telling stories and not paying attention, Sue looked farther ahead on Interstate 5 and said, “Must be an accident way up ahead, as traffic stopped. Nothing but brake lights.”
At that moment we passed the road sign that said "San Ysidro Border Crossing."
We looked at each other and said, “S*%t, we are at the Mexican border!” We totally overshot the off ramp an hour before for the dog show.
Of course, it took some doing to get to the northbound lanes, Border Patrol shaking their heads at these two chicks in a van with show dogs. We finally arrived at the show grounds – Corky not happy we were so late!
So many other stories, many not fit for print. I loved her so and miss her.
Harold Brizee, Colonel USA (Ret)
When I first started judging a breed that Sue was showing, I did not place her special. As she was leaving the ring, I admit I felt a little intimidated by my decision. As she passed, she congratulated me on doing a great job. I never forgot that act of professionalism. She was always a winner in my mind.
Joe and Roberta Walton
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
One of our favorite remembrances of Sue Vroom was after a dog show in Long Beach, California, which was near a place called the Pike (an amusement zone with rides, ferris wheel and a famous roller coaster). Joe and I and Sue Vroom (a single lady at the time) and her friend Lorra Craig all went on the bumper cars along with Mike Shay. This allowed all of us to work out our day’s frustrations from the dog show. We all slammed into each other and laughed our heads off. Sue was such a warm, positive lady who made you feel special.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Wow, there are so many. Some I cannot share because … well, you understand.
Since in a recent newsletter you used the picture of Sue in that blouse, it reminded me that I had bought that blouse at Saks. It was an Ellen Tracy blouse and it cost about $165.
When I saw Sue at Orange Empire wearing the same blouse, I said, “Where did you get that? It’s just like mine.” To which Sue replied, “JCPenney for $26.”
We laughed so hard about the stupid blouse.
Many years ago I met Sue at the Houston shows. I was waiting to go in the Group Ring with my Corgi. Sue was way across the rings, watching the Group.
When the Group was over – I think I was second – I saw this tall blond lady coming toward me. I thought she was looking at someone else, but she came over, introduced herself, and said I should have won the group, that he was a lovely dog. Then she turned and went on her way.
I inquired who she was, and was told she was a handler from California. It is moments like those that make an owner-handler smile and remember that someone notices.
I later met Sue and Corky through mutual friends and handlers in California. When Sue and Corky retired and moved to Texas (I lived in Oklahoma), I remember thinking it was a small world. Sue was always helpful and understanding – she will be missed.
Port St. Lucie, Florida
I had known Sue for many years prior to her becoming an AKC rep. I was judging in Texas and at lunch, I noticed that she was sitting at a table with several people I did not know. I went over to say hello, and she introduced me. They were all newer judges, and for some of them, it was their first assignment. They were all discussing their experiences and getting feedback from Sue and from the others.
That was Sue: always inclusive, always supportive, always helpful.
I have so many wonderful memories of Sue, dinners, laughs and great stories. My favorite memory is a note she wrote to me when my husband died. It was full of caring, understanding and love. I will miss the phone calls and her laughter.
Welland, Ontario, Canada
My favorite memory with Sue Vroom was during an assignment in Conroe, Texas.
Sue came to me during lunch and advised that one of the group judges had fallen ill. She asked if I could judge another group for her that day before heading to the airport. I advised her I was happy to assist but that I HAD to make my flight as I was running a major dangerous offender hearing that started the following day in Toronto, and I could not miss my flight.
Sue left and quickly returned saying that my groups would go first and to not dillydally! With a wink and a big smirk, she was gone again. As the groups approached Sue had everyone lined up like a military parade.
I made quick order of the Sporting group as I had judged all the breeds. I pointed to the winners and literally as I turned to walk to the steward's table to mark my judge's book all the Toy group exhibitors went running past me and into the ring. I heard Sue's voice (as clear as any drill sergeant ever) yelling, "Move it, people – THIS is what we trained for!" She looked at her watch and then me and winked “I AM ON IT!”
I finished my groups. Sue had the photographer at the ready. I had barely handed the rosette back to the last exhibitor when I felt a death grip on my arm. Sue escorted me from the podium and into a running van right at the first exit. She advised me my luggage was already loaded and that she would send me my judging sheets. She gave me a big hug and then loudly “suggested” to the driver to “drive it like they stole it!”
I messaged Sue when I was at the airport gate to thank her for everything. She replied, “Of course, but NOT my first rodeo!”
I still laugh to this day remembering her orchestrate an entire venue with her great presence and wit. She will be so greatly missed.
There are so many memories of Sue, but one always brings a smile.
I was judging in southern California, and Sue had shown a few dogs during the day. After lunch, I was to judge Irish Wolfhounds. Sue came into the Open Dog class with an enormous, unruly, dark brindle dog. I worked my way through the class and was able to examine her dog without him stepping on my feet or knocking me over. I sent him down and back on the diagonal. Down was fine. On his way back, it happened that I was standing close to the ring entrance, and he was on a mission. On he came, gathering speed. I heard Sue yell, “Get out of the way! I can’t stop him!” I moved and he sailed right past. He did stop eventually, but most of the way out of the ring. He came back and I was able to finish the class without incident. I will never forget the look on Sue’s face. Every time we met, we would laugh about that day.
Sky Valley, California
Watching the Groups up in the stands at Santa Barbara. She forgot more about dogs than most people will ever know. She was a good friend. Our sport has lost a true source of inspiration ....
Los Angeles, California
The stories are endless. But one stands out ... Very early on as we walked away from TT judging, both losing, shaking her head she said, "I just wish judges would remember Tibetan Terriers are supposed to be a hearty little mountain dog, but they go OVER the mountain, NOT THROUGH IT!”
I couldn't have had a better friend and mentor. I will miss her always. RIP, Sue.
There was a show where there was a lot of negative talk about a particular big-winning dog being oversized. I was judging the group, and that dog was in it. I did not believe the dog was too big, so during the group competition, I called for the wicket. I measured the dog, and then turned to ringside and announced, "He's in."
After the group, Sue called me over to her table. She handed me a chocolate truffle wrapped in gold-colored paper, and said, "Consider that a medal. You are my hero today." Sue had heard all the talk, and was glad I had decided to put an end to it.
She was an excellent rep, but more importantly, she was a great dog person, a great woman, and I respected and loved her.
Sue Vroom did my very first evaluation as a judge. I was so excited, and she was so positive and gentle. I sure she could have knocked me down on several things, but she just told me one thing to work on, and that one thing is something I have never forgotten: to make every exhibitor feel as though their dog has your full attention for their two minutes. I have always thought that she was the pinnacle of grace and beauty. May she rest in peace.
Mary Anne Brocious
Sue and Corky often showed dogs to me when I judged on the West Coast. She always presented her dogs with class and a special skill. Sue and I became close when I assumed the role of Judges Education Chair for the Old English Sheepdog Club of America. Sue was an experienced JE Chair with the Bouvier club, and she guided me through developing materials and delivering the message to aspiring judges. Her communications skills were the best, and I applied her talent and direction on developing and delivering a well-thought-out and effective program. I served for seven years, always updating with advice from Sue.
I recently called her with no answer, just voice mail. I thought I might call later, but very soon after I learned of her passing. I am devastated at the loss of my mentor and friend. The dog world has lost a special person in Sue Vroom.
Dr. Don Gill
There are almost too many fond memories of Sue Vroom throughout the years, but one of my favorites occurred at the show site of the Tyler, Texas, Kennel Club, Inc. in Canton, Texas. I had washed and cleaned the inside of my van, as I was picking up judges that evening. I was following a pickup truck a bit too closely. Behind the pickup was a horse trailer with a horse in it. I was driving along thinking about the day when the horse, which was obviously having a stomach problem, let go, and loose horses--t covered my van, necessitating a return to my home to use the water hose to clean my vehicle. When I arrived at the show site, Sue almost went into convulsions laughing. I thought I was going to have to call an EMT to get enough oxygen to her.
Mount Airy, Maryland
I had known Corky when he was very young, as he and his dad handled Ridgebacks in California early on; there is a great picture that I was given of him, his dad and probably 15 Ridgebacks all lined up. I met Sue later here in the East. When they announced they were retiring at the Garden, they had a small get-together in their rooms at the Taft (or whatever it was called at that time). It was a pleasant, nostalgic evening. Whenever I would see Sue in later years we would hark back and always had a pleasant time. She was a good rep, always smart, knowledgeable, fair and never had an agenda. A pleasure.
Dr. Daniel Dowling
Sue Vroom was kind, fair, helpful and knowledgeable, not to mention elegant, and she knew how to dress. Doesn't get much better than all that.
Gregory A. Anderson
I have so many and beautiful memories of Sue! She always called me “the blond-haired, blue-eyed surfer dude with those fluffy Cocker Spaniels.”
My best story is, Sue and Corky got a particolor Cocker Spaniel to show, but had no idea how to trim his feet! A bell foot … Sue came running to me in a panic state. “Greg,” she said, “I’m clueless about these feet, help me!” So I laughed and said sure; I trimmed the feet and fixed the head.
A half-hour later we were in the same specials class. I had a multi-group-winning dog and two-time national winner. Well, guess what ... Sue won! She looked at me and we just started laughing!
The next day 12 red roses and a bottle of wine were at my set-up! That was Sue Vroom – a class act! Kind! Funny! Smart! Beautiful inside and out! Her beauty! I miss Sue! Such an honor to have her in my life! Thank you, Sue!
St. Stephens Church, Virginia
One memory I have is Sue showing a Bulldog that Corky normally showed. He was a very happy and friendly dog.
Just as Sue got him on the ramp I forgot how he was and said something to him. Off the ramp he came, with Sue hanging on, at me. We were a tangled mess, with Sue saying, “You just had to say something – you couldn’t just judge him.”
What fun Sue was, both in the ring and out at dinner after the show. She was a great friend.
David L. Anthony
My wife and I attended a judge’s education class on Tibetan Terriers in Houston, Texas, hosted by Sue Vroom. Even though we flew in from the East Coast, we were very much aware of how well respected she was in the dog world. She was a wonderful teacher and was very “matter of fact” when it came to this breed that she obviously loved very much.
One of the unique features of this breed is the snowshoe-type foot they must possess. She instructed us on how to evaluate this feature by running your hand down the leg to the foot itself. Silly me, I raised my hand and asked the question, “Do we need to check each foot for this feature?”
She looked at me very sternly and said, “In all the years that I have been teaching this breed, not one person has ever asked that question. Just what’s your name?”
Thinking quickly I said, “Colonel Purkhiser.” Of course, Colonel Purkhiser is a well-known seasoned judge, and I was merely a one-group wonder at the time. She looked over her glasses and smiled. I’ll never forget how to correctly inspect the foot of this terrier.
My all-breed club is part of the Lone Star State Classic series of shows in Dallas, Texas. Sue considered us her home shows.
Our indoor facility (paradoxically) is freezing during our July shows and too warm during our December shows. One July, several years ago, Sue was wrapped up in an afghan and was still so cold that her nose turned blue. The poor California desert girl thought that she would be warm moving to Texas.
It so happens that crochet is a hobby of mine (indeed, the afghan around her shoulders was a raffle item I had donated). When I returned home after the first show, I felt a little prankish and grabbed my hook and went to work.
The next day I presented her with a baby-pink crocheted nose warmer. It was held in place with two attached crochet chains that tied behind her head.
Not only did she put it on, but she actually let us take a picture! I've lost the photo, but the memory of her good sportsmanship, and the hilarious laughter that was so common when we were together, will be among my favorite dog-show memories.
Gosh, I'm going to miss you, Sue ... You were definitely "Show Quality."