Remembering Sue Maddox
Cortez activist Sue Maddox in 1980.
All of us in Cortez were shocked and saddened by the sudden death of my cousin, Sue Turner Maddox, on March 1. She will not be forgotten by those who knew her and the good she did. According to the Bible, the good we do can live after us. That is true only if such is made known and remembered. I write this to recall some of her activities that need remembering by us.
Sue was born in Mulberry, Fla., the second daughter of Chris and Myrtle Fulford Turner. Sue is the granddaughter of Nathan and Betty Whitehurst Fulford, of Cortez. They were one of the five first families to come to the village called Hunter's Point. In fact, Sue lived in the first house built in the village in 1889. She was dedicated to its preservation.
My earliest memories of are of the summers when the family came to Cortez. They lived in a mobile home parked in the side yard of the homestead. Sometimes we played in the home. Like most Cortez kids, we spent most of our time swimming in the bay, scalloping for spending money and playing with each other.
Sue attended school in Mulberry, married and raised two sons there. After a divorce, she packed up her two sons and moved to Cortez. It was coming home again to her and she proved that you can do so.
Of her many accomplishments, the contribution to the fishing industry should be noted. She accepted a position with the A.P. Bell Fish Company owned and operated by her cousins, the Bell brothers. She worked wearing several hats as clerk, receptionist, bookkeeper and overall Gal Friday. Her employer said that Sue did the work of four people. The success of this company is due to a great extent to the dedication of Sue during her 26 years of service.
While that was noteworthy, I choose to remember her most for her being the first person to speak out against the damage to the reputation of Cortez by the drug smuggling operations.
While our cousins made millions, the backers in the greater community profited even more. People were dying in the village because of the drugs.
In August of 1980, after the eighth death in Cortez from this activity, Sue had had enough. She purchased a large sign for the street in front of her house. It read, "Another drug related death. The smugglers don't care. Do you?" It was fire bombed, as expected.
When her friends warned her that she would be killed, she responded, "They may kill me but they sure as hell can't eat me." That bomb just lit a bigger fire under her to get her more active.
She chose street protests against the smuggling to get the attention of the public. I am proud that she invited me and my sister to join her and her sister for the second Saturday protest. This was the beginning of the end of this plague on our homeland.
Our feelings of pride in our heritage come from our relationship with our grandparents. The people of the village had always showed pride in their work, love of family and respect for God. Sue's grandfather, Nathan Fulford, and my grandfather, William Fulford, were active Christians standing up for what was right. I do believe that their blood cried from the ground for vindication for this place they loved.
All of us should be grateful that 48-year-old Sue Maddox began the process by speaking out.
Sue supported Cortez in other ways too. She did her own landscaping around that lovely old house. She made it home for the exotic birds, raccoons, dogs and cats she petted. She volunteered for the fish fry three times a year to support the volunteer fire department and the Historical Society In fact, Sue was a charter member of the board of directors when CVHS was incorporated in 1984.
She believed in the democratic process and was active in the local Democratic Party, even running for election once, as I did. Somehow her sign stayed up longer than mine.
At her death, Sue made her final contribution by donating her body to the medical school at the University of Florida. Her sudden death reminds me that I should live as if this day may be my last as some day will be.
Sue was a proud mother, grandmother, friend and neighbor. For us who do remember, her good deeds will live after her.
On Saturday, March 16, from 1 to 3 p.m., there will be a celebration of Sue’s life held at Swordfish Grill in Cortez