Ocracoke Prepares for Susie to Leave Us

Sundae Horn

How many parties are enough to show Susie we’ll miss her?

Let’s start with two! The first is this Sunday, from 4 – 6 p.m. in the yard at Books to Be Red. It’s a potluck, so please bring a dish to share and come join us in drinking a toast to our great friend. Susie hopes this one will be casual and fun. Just drop by!

The next is a dessert potluck Bon Voyage party at the Fire Hall on May 7th, from 3 – 6 p.m. It's sponsored by the OVFD, of which Susie has been a faithful member. She expects to cry a lot at that one.

Susie moved to Ocracoke when she was 21, and now, nine years later, she feels like the time is right for her to try something new.

“I’ve been thinking about leaving for a few years, but I wasn’t ready until now,” she said. “But now there’s a window, and I’m jumping out of it.”

Ocracoke Prepares for Susie to Leave Us

Susie is leaving her business, Halo Hair Studio, where she has worked 60+ hours a week for all her years on Ocracoke. She’s been crazy busy the last week as everyone scheduled a farewell appointment. Tomorrow will be her last day of work. She’s got appointments for 11 girls for prom ‘dos, plus one boy, Kade Nagakane. Her last haircut of the day will be Bobby O’Neal, who’s been a longtime loyal customer. “We’re going to drink a Coors Light afterward,” she said.

Susie has sold her hair salon to another stylist, who’s moving here from Fayetteville.

“Ocracoke doesn’t like change,” Susie said. “So everything will remain the same. Her name is Susie [Hutcherson], she’ll use Halo Hair, and she’ll have all my furniture and live in my house. ”

While we all know we have to give the new Susie a chance, it will be hard not to dwell on how much we miss the old one.

As Joyce Reynolds just told me, “There’s not a head or a heart on Ocracoke that Susie hasn’t touched.”

We’ll try not to be sad, but instead celebrate the adventures she’s embarking on. 

It all begins with travel, and more travel. First, she excited to be going on a trip to Ireland with her parents.

“We’re going to look for the town where our ancestors are from and ask people a lot of annoying questions,” she said.

After Ireland she’ll send her parents back to the states and head to France, up in the Pyrenees mountains. There she will set off, on foot, on a solo 500-mile journey along the Way of St. James. The Way of St. James (in Spanish: El Camino de Santiago) is the route of a holy pilgrimage that people have used for over 1000 years. The pilgrimage ends at the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, on the coast in Galicia, Spain. Along the way, pilgrims (who carry a special pilgrim’s passport; Susie has hers already) are provided with inexpensive meals and lodging. At each stop, their passport is stamped, and when they get to the end, there’s a special Pilgrim’s Mass at the cathedral. Susie expects to make the pilgrimage in 30 days, walking 20 miles a day. 

After all that, she’ll return to the U.S., leave her parents’ home in New York and start driving west toward Portland, Oregon. Susie visited the west coast last fall to see if she’d like to move there (it was one of many choices she was considering.) She liked Portland a lot, but is open to the possibility of finding someplace even better as she makes her way across the country.

She’s even open to calling Ocracoke home again. 

“Even if I’m just going to these other things, and then decide I really want to be here, that’s okay, too,” she said.

“I love everybody and it breaks my heart to be leaving – it’s just time,” she added.


My son, Emmet Temple, wrote the following tribute to Susie for Civics class. The assignment was to write about a community member that exemplifies being a good citizen. Emmet knew immediately that he would write about Susie.

Susie Kennedy has been Ocracoke’s only hairdresser and an outstanding member of the community since she moved here in 2003. While on Ocracoke she has been a part of the OVFD, been on the Ocracoke Child Care board and been an active administrator for the OYC. She was also the Teen Night director.

 Susie grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, living there until she was twenty-one, and it was there that she sparked her ongoing love for volunteer work and developed her intense work ethic. As a high school student she worked with Learning Unlimited, an organization that helped students find volunteer opportunities. Through this program Susie helped out in several locations including a local mortuary where she assisted in preparing bodies. When asked if it was creepy, she told me, “No matter what you believe happens after you die, when you do you are gone in a very permanent and electrical way… when people are upset by dead bodies it is because they had an emotional tie to the person that it used to be.. it just isn’t a person anymore, it’s more like a wax figure, really.” She also worked at a veterinary hospital which she enjoyed less because she was mainly a kennel cleaner. She admits, though, that she never had anything as fun as the Teen Night to depend on.

After she graduated high school, she attended beauty school to become a hairdresser. It was shortly after that her father told her of a nice little island he had visited on a fishing trip, one sadly lacking the hairdressing arts. Susie came to Ocracoke for one day in July of 2003, went home, packed her bags, and moved here a week later. Her “Plan B” if Ocracoke didn’t work out was to join the circus.

Susie opened her business, Halo Hair Studio, initially in the apartment she was living in and later she was able to secure a location. Seeing as she is the only hairdresser on the island, everyone goes to her and she is very committed to her customers. For instance, the night before going to run a half-marathon on the mainland, she did all the girls’ hair for Homecoming. She believes that she assimilated into the community so well because of the inherent intimacy of her job, that people have her undivided attention while they have their hair cut so that she became an accepted member of the community faster than she would if she had come, for instance, as a waitress.

She soon joined the OVFD, a work she suggests to others as exciting and extremely rewarding. According to Susie, the physical and technical training were things she wouldn’t have pursued otherwise. She also said that as terrifying as fire is it is a great feeling, of knowing what to do and doing it quickly.

She also served on the OCC board as well as that of the OYC as one of six volunteers, organizing fundraising and programming. While they were roommates, Russ Chesson, then current teen night director, talked about the youth center all the time, and piqued Susie’s interest. First serving as a board member, and then taking over for Russ when he left, Susie was perfect for the job.

In my mind, the greatest thing Susie has done for our community is the four years of service for the Ocracoke Youth Center’s Teen  Night. She was an influence for any kids that came to the fortnightly meetings. The core value of teen night was to always try new things and expanding our definitions of fun. We tried to mix it up as much as possible doing different activities every time. We had bonfires on the beach, treasure hunts, two role-playing murder mysteries, watched countless movies, and had an annual gender exploration night, all without leaving the island. Up the beach we went on camping trips, college visits, concert expeditions and went to theme parks.

Susie also says that part of the thrill of running teen night was her vicarious reinvention of her own story. That we should have opportunities that were denied to her by the anonymity of a big school, was a clear goal. 

She helped to teach us what being a good citizen is about: loving the place you live, caring about the people around you, becoming a family of sorts. She introduced us to many activities that we otherwise would not have tried, such as ballroom dancing or cross-dressing. And although some people may view these as silly or strange for us to like, what do those people know about fun? Susie also taught by example, her view that volunteerism helps both the community and the volunteer, is clearly demonstrated by her work for the fire department and teen night.

She helped reinforce that where you live is a major part of who you are, more so the more involved you are in the community. We volunteered in helping the Junction Function and fundraising for programs for the younger Youth Center attendees. Also we were encouraged to be different without judgement or persecution, and to accept others as well.

In conclusion, Susie has been an extremely influential individual in the past four years of my life, more so than any other non-relative. She has changed the way I think about what it means to be a community, a family, and a citizen. She has shown me trust and caring, as she did for all teen night participants, and that goes well beyond what words can describe. I see her as the sort of citizen that I would like to become: responsible entrepreneur, energetic volunteer, and role model. Her work was a shining example that the Teen Night generation should strive to live up to, and I know that though we all wish her the best of luck in her continuing adventures, we will miss her greatly.

For more about Susie's teen Night adventures, please check out this link.


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