I’ve moved on from Moxie—at least that’s what I tell myself. But, just when I think I’m free, Moxie reels me back in.
An important Lisbon matriarch passed away last Wednesday. Her death, just two weeks prior to the festival she nurtured for nearly a decade resonates through the town where I grew up and where upwards of 50,000 people will be coming to visit, the 2nd weekend in July.
I’ve written about Sue Conroy in my two books about Moxie. I referred to her as the “behind-the-scenes maven” of Moxie at the time (2008, when I interviewed her for Moxietown). If I had to “blame” someone for the topic that I’m sure some people get tired of hearing me talk about, probably thinking, “STFU about Moxie, already,” then I’m sorry Sue, I’m laying that honor at your feet.
I’ve been working on a story about the upcoming Moxie Festival that will run next Sunday, in the Lewiston Sun-Journal. When b-Section editor, Mark Mogensen, who I’ve been freelancing stories to at the paper for a couple of months, including my latest Explore! columns asked me about writing it, I wasn’t sure I wanted to crank out another piece on Moxie. I mean, what more can I say about the distinctly different soft drink that has spawned a festival in a town that desperately needs the positive energy that fans of Moxie will bring with them when they come to visit for three days? Apparently, a little bit more.
I wrote the article over the weekend. I filed it yesterday.
It’s been a crazy, busy stretch for me. Anyone paying attention will know that my byline’s been popping up in all kinds of places in June. I’ve had lots of other deadlines, and of course, as my readers know—the big deadline was my new book, now in production at Walch Printing. More to come about The Perfect Number: Essays & Stories Vol. I.
Good editors are as valuable as gold to ambitious freelance writers. They’re demanding, but their suggestions always lead to a better article. My editor wanted a bit more, including the answer to the question, “Why Lisbon and why Moxie?” You’ll have to wait until Sunday for the answer (I’m not giving it away today).
To be honest, now that Frank Potter has gone off to that Moxie Festival in the sky, the number of people who truly know their Moxie history has been substantially diminished. Especially Moxie historians who have actually invested sweat and toil turning what they know (or think they know) into book form.
How did I get roped in about Moxie? It’s Sue Conroy’s fault.
Sue used to cut my hair. In fact, I started going to Hairs Too You, owned by her daughter, Kerry, back when they were on School Street. I know it was in the last 1990s and I had more hair, too
Sue began working for Kerry, and more often than not, I would have Sue as my stylist. Over time, I just began asking for Sue.
In 2004, I left my cubicle at Moscow Mutual for greener pastures, or so I thought. I was headed down the road that would eventually take me to where I am today.
I had launched a small PR/marketing venture called, Write for You, focused on small business marketing and public relations. I knew very little about how all this would work out.
Like I often did when Sue cut my hair, we talked about life. When I mentioned what I was doing, she told me the former PR person was no longer involved with the Moxie Festival. Sue was now running the Moxie show, along with her son, Toby, and a small band of volunteer believers. She asked me if I was interested. I was.
She said, “we can’t pay you.” I said, “that’s ok.” I knew the experience and being able to list it would be beneficial.
My first year, 2004, I wrote the pre-festival article, the Moxie lead, the Moxie parade story, and a follow-up article on the festival. I may be the only person who has filed four stories from Moxie central in the 30+ year history of the festival. The only other one who might have is Connie Footman, my neighbor in Durham, and longtime Sun-Journal local correspondent for Lisbon-Durham.
Crosman Funeral Home was hosting a celebration of Sue’s life from 4-7 on Monday. I had to be in Falmouth to umpire at 5:00, but I was determined to at least stop by and pay my respects to Toby and Kerry. I vowed I wouldn’t get emotional. So much for that.
I shared a few thoughts about Sue with Toby. He and I got to know one another well because of Sue and our mutual involvement with Moxie and the festival. Toby’s role with Moxie has never been sufficiently recognized, and I’m at fault for that, too. It was hard not to be emotional and I got pulled in.
On my way out, Kerry was holding court in the adjoining room. I adore Kerry and I see so much of her mom in her—her drive and “never say die” attitude. There’s a toughness, a willingness to take risks, as well as that softer, compassionate side I got to see in Sue so often, too.
I told her of my dilemma and my article and how I found the answer, once again, from her mom.
Reading page 41, in Moxie: Maine in a Bottle, Sue supplied the answer to my question. When I shared it with Kerry, it made her cry, and I was crying too.
The weeks leading up to Moxie always quickens me a bit. This comes from having served on the Moxie Committee for three years, writing articles about the festival, and of course, the books I’ve cranked out about the distinctly different soft drink.
This year, the excitement is tinged with sadness. I’m sad because Sue won’t get to see the parade, and the marching band from Wisconsin that she brought to Lisbon Falls in the past. Sue loved her marching bands. I also regret that I didn’t take time recently to check-in with Sue when I was thinking about her. Time and life waits for no man.
I was pleased to see my hometown pouring out their love to Sue and her family. She was a remarkable lady, someone who influenced me in my life, and helped contribute to my success.
While it’s easy to see only Sue and Moxie, to do so would be a mistake. Sue did so many things during her 68 years of life. One of them was moving to a new town, and adopting it and loving it like one of her children.
When people tell me one person can’t make a difference, I want to yell, “bullshit!” That’s a cop out, a lousy excuse, and just plain defeatist and lazy. One person can change so many things if they focus on the corner where they live, work, and can influence. Sue did that in spades
We’ll miss you Sue and we’ll all be thinking of you throughout Moxie weekend and beyond.