In 1964, Peter and Sue Day formed a Scottish dance group which, in 1977, achieved the status of the New Haven Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. Sue’s chief role in the fledgling Branch was the instruction of beginning dancers. One must appreciate the special challenge this presented in a community like New Haven. Each and every student was more Type A than the last, each and every one outrageously smart, bound and determined to conquer the intricacies and complexities of this art form as no one ever had, each and every one a neurotic overachiever. (As one of them, I say this with affection–and a certain degree of sheepishness.) It’s impossible to imagine a person more ideally suited for this task. Her approach was tireless, ever patient, always witty, often humor-tinged (it would have to be), and thoroughly shot through with the elegance of her pedigree, the grace of her upbringing, the intelligence of her education.
You can see Sue’s full impressive obituary on line at
I would like to convey a somewhat more personal account of our all too brief friendship. Yes, her name was really Lois Elizabeth, although she never used it. “Sue” evidently came from the American song “Oh Susannah,” popular when she and Peter were looking for the right pet name. It was between Sue and another name she would never admit to–it must have been a doozy. The common denominator that shines through Sue’s many and varied pursuits is her generosity of spirit. Everything to which she turned her attention involved the improvement of someone’s life, empathy for the human condition and a desire to make it better. There she met her match in her life partner, Peter Day. Rarely is one fortunate enough to witness a couple so connected, so devoted. When Sue celebrated her 92nd birthday this past July, Peter wrote to tell me, “She’s the same age as the queen!” An apt comparison, because he clearly saw her as his queen for every single day of their 67-year marriage.
Very regrettably, Peter left New Haven in 1979; Sue followed a year later–a separation of necessity they swore never to repeat. Those of us who were lucky enough to know them and study with them have never entirely stopped missing them. It was an honor that they returned last autumn for our 40th anniversary celebration, and a privilege to be able to show them that we’re carrying on their work to the extent we can. I’ll be forever grateful that we could share that one last experience with the two of them. I’m glad a number of you, who hadn’t had the chance before, got to meet them that day and have a conversation with them. In Peter’s words, “I know Sue would want me to say ‘we send you all our love and fondest wishes and our expectations that you will continue to enjoy the dancing.’ She so loved to dance and teach beginners.” Sue conveyed that love loud and clear, from the moment I met her. She enriched her students’ lives immeasurably, turning what could have been a passing fancy into an enduring passion. I don’t know if there was Scottish dancing in heaven before–but I’m sure there is now.
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