Steamboat grieves loss of icon, athlete Sue White
Her smile was full of life, her enthusiasm contagious and when Sue White said hello, it would bring a little light into the lives of those she greeted, and to the community she called home.
“I would get out of my car in the morning, and she was coming from the bus stop, and she would see me, and I would hear, ‘Good morning, Nova’ clear across the parking lot,” said Nova Dorr, who was Sue’s longtime friend and a manager at City Market. “It didn’t matter who was around; she didn’t care. It was like, ‘There is my friend, and I have to say hi.’”
Once she got inside, Sue would often hug many of her co-workers before getting to work bagging groceries, Dorr said. Of course, Sue looked up from time to time to say hi to the customers she knew who were making their way through the line, or walking past her as they made their way out of the store.
Dorr is missing those greetings and longs for those hugs after White, 52, died Thursday, Aug. 4, at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center after a brief illness.
“You could be having a bad day, and she would come up and ask what was wrong and give you this big hug,” Dorr said. “She just cared for people, and I think that’s what I’m gonna miss. It’s really odd just how quiet the store is without Sue.”
Sue was born in Grand Junction, lived in Meeker as a child and moved to Craig with her family at the age of 7. She graduated from Moffat County High School in 1987 before moving to Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat was where Sue, who was born with an intellectual disability, made her home. Meghan McNamara said Sue connected with Horizon’s Specialized Services shortly after she arrived in Steamboat, but never let her disability slow her down.
“She was very sweet, and kind, and friendly and loving, but she was also fiercely independent. She lived life on her terms, and I really respect that about her,” said McNamara, who worked with Sue for years as a case manager before becoming the director of human resources at Horizons. “She did things that she enjoyed and spent time with people that she enjoyed spending time with, and she really lived a full life here.”
Sue’s parents were divorced, and she often traveled to Alaska where her father, Clifford, lived before he passed away, and she also liked to travel to visit her mother, Ida Trowbridge, who is 90 and living in Kansas. She also leaves behind three brothers James, Rodney and Tyron and her sister, Tamara.
McNamara said that Sue loved to go to Florida and Arizona and made a couple trips to Las Vegas. She also liked to head down to Denver when she got the chance.
While many people knew Sue from City Market, where she worked bagging groceries for 23 years, she was an involved member of the community.
She also excelled on the slopes where she enjoyed skiing, on the softball diamond where she was a regular in local recreational leagues, and on the lanes where she enjoyed knocking down pins at Snow Bowl Steamboat.
She was a huge fan of the Sailors and in the fall could be found cheering at most home football games. She was a huge Broncos fan, always wearing her jersey on Sundays and talking about the team whenever she got the chance.
“She loved the sports, and oh my gosh, the Broncos were her favorite team,” Dorr said. “The latest one was the Avs winning the Stanley Cup. We were allowed to wear jerseys or T-shirts or whatever to work to support the Avs. It was supposed to be on game days, but Sue wore hers all the time.”
She also loved to play sports, competing at the Special Olympics in softball, bowling, skiing and track and field where she collected numerous ribbons.
In 2017, Sue’s passion for skiing landed her in the spotlight after she earned the chance to compete in the Alpine skiing events at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. She competed in the novice division, and she won the gold medal in the giant slalom and placed fourth in the super-G.
When she got back home, the community of Steamboat Springs welcomed her and packed Howelsen Hill’s Olympian Hall to celebrate her accomplishments. She has a flag hanging from the ceiling of the hall and was featured in an “I Am An Athlete” video produced by Special Olympics Colorado.
“She kept her medals with her in her backpack in her locker,” Dorr said. “They would come out once in a while, and she would be like, ‘Oh, look what I brought today.’ She was so proud — so so proud of that and that was awesome.”
McNamara fought back tears this week as she recalled her friendship with Sue that dates back as long as she can remember. Her father worked with Sue in the city’s parks and recreation department back in the early 1990s, and when McNamara was in high school, she worked alongside Sue at City Market.
“I can’t remember the first time I met Sue,” McNamara said. “She is one of those people where it seems like you have always known them.”
A celebration of life has been planned for 6 p.m. Aug. 25 at Olympian Hall. McNamara and Sue’s second family at City Market is trying to fill the void that Sue left in the community.
“I’m going to miss getting that greeting from her every time I saw her, and how she made everybody feel so good and so happy,” McNamara said. “She showed everyone what was possible for her and other people, and she was a role model among her peers … People looked up to her, and admired the way she lived her life and her independence. It was hard to be in a bad mood after seeing Sue, and I think she is a great reminder of how we should treat each other, and how we can treat each other in such a small community.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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