Remembering Sue Vroom
If ever there was a person universally loved by the world of dogs, that person was Sue Vroom. Her death on April 6 was a heartbreaking shock to the entire dog fancy. As a professional handler, breeder and eventually American Kennel Club field representative, this charming and lovely lady touched the lives of all who came in contact with her.
She was effervescent, tall and glamorous, and looked like a runway model. And Sue was as down to earth as they come. From childhood, when she attended her first dog show at the Orange Empire Dog Club in San Bernardino, California, Sue never lost her passion for dogs and the competition of the shows. At a young age she acquired her first English Springer Spaniel from California’s Whitney line, and in time became the kennel manager for the breeding program that produced her first winner. Prior to that, working for professional handler Ray McGinnis provided expert mentoring that contributed much to her in-depth knowledge of Sporting dogs, their grooming and their presentation.
While Sue was coming of age during those early years, so was another California youngster – the boyish Corky Vroom. Like Sue, he was born into a “dog family,” as his father, Red Vroom, was also a well-known professional handler and his grandmother a respected breeder of Pekingese. By the time Sue and Corky came together and married in 1981, Corky had already piloted two dogs – the Doberman Missile Belle in 1973 and the Greyhound affectionately known as “Punkie” in 1976 – to two Top Dog All-Breed honors. Here was a merger of two of the greats in dogs. It was inevitable that their success together would become the stuff of legend. And so it did.
Sue and Corky were California’s Golden Couple. Their set-up was immaculate and orderly, with Sue managing their business seemingly effortlessly. They were everybody’s dream of a husband-wife team. Their relationship with clients Gloria and Nat Reese was akin to an extended family enterprise. Corky became president of the Professional Handlers Association for five years with Sue’s considerable support. And once again there was a Top Dog All Breeds owned by the Reeses –this time the indomitable Bouvier des Flandres Iron Eyes in 1990. Their scorecard showed multiple honors over the years and thousands of group and BIS victories. At the festive awards dinners in New York they were the celebrities truly deserving red-carpet acclaim.
Shortly after Corky retired in 2004, Sue was hired to become an AKC rep. Soon she and Corky had moved to Dallas, Texas, as the center of her new job. Corky was happy to have time to play golf, and the sport became a togetherness activity for the pair. It was in that new field-rep capacity that more dog people were exposed to Sue and came to realize what an extraordinary talent was in their midst. Judges, show chairmen, handlers and breeder-exhibitors all found her to be most accommodating and user-friendly. She was warm and generous to all as she shared her wealth of knowledge and willingness to help. In time both Corky’s mother and his sister moved to Dallas to be close to Corky and Sue in her new career.
Consider the nervous breeder applicant approaching his first interview to become a judge. Mercifully, it was with Sue. To ease his tension, she remarked there was no need to be uptight as he knew structure, was successful and was well versed in the essence of his breed: He should have no problem with this interview.
“After all,” she said, “this isn’t rocket science.”
His reply cracked her up. “I AM a rocket scientist!”
Needless to say the interview went well, and this brilliant individual received his first breed to judge.
Sue’s contributions to the world of dogs was all encompassing. She bred quality animals in a number of breeds, served as show chairman for numerous specialty shows, and became a mentor in several breeds, traveling to Asia to present seminars and educational activities. More than once we heard from around the world what a great ambassador for dogs in general and the AKC in particular Sue was. For years her contributions to the Bouvier parent club resulted in wonderful and instructional articles that served both breeders and judges. In addition to those journalistic jewels, she mentored many on another of her favorites – the Tibetan Terrier. Having been involved with the successful campaigning of so many breeds across the groups, Sue was the ablest of AKC field reps.
Tragedy first struck their lives when Corky came down with lung cancer in 2010 and passed away in 2011. Through his illness Corky was visited and received calls and messages from multiple members of the sport. Sue chose to keep her devastating illness rather quiet except for those in close proximity who walked with her through the tragic trip. She was the one person I never heard an unkind word about in all my years in dogs. Sue Vroom was a role model for all, and her loss means a bright light has been lost to this world. Knowing Sue, she will take that light to the next one, where the Golden Couple will be together again.