Sue Burgener of Whirling Dervish Folk Art is thankful for the opportunity to continue selling junk.
The longtime antiques dealer in Merrill, WI, survived Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma three years ago. She said it has inspired her to celebrate ordinary moments in her life, and the ability to keep attending sales. That includes the Bonanza, where she is is a first-time vendor in spot #529.
“Thanks to Ki; she’s a visionary. She sees beauty in simple things, and look at this she has created,” Sue said with a sweep of her arm. “People are out at 9 in the morning with their friends, having a Bloody Mary. They are so happy! It’s a gathering. They are stepping out of their boxes a bit and they are so happy.”
Sue had always worked with antiques, and her store, Traditions, was a place she worked to refurbish furniture. During the 6-month course of chemotherapy, she said, she was tired, “but I didn’t quit. With one month of chemo left, I said to myself, ‘Pull on your big girl pants and go to a show.’ “
At the show in Eagle River, WI, Sue said, she overheard customers saying the booth looked like her style, but she realized they didn’t realize from behind that she actually was the shopkeeper.
That’s because her hair, usually to her waist, was gone, and she was not wearing a wig.
“You know that undefinable space between what was said and when you realize it and you are not comfortable? I just opened my mouth and said, ‘It IS me!’ “
“In the first few months it was difficult for me,” Sue continued. “I couldn’t do the furniture restoration and lifting. That’s when I started concentrating on the folk art.”
And the name to accompany her new focus?
“It’s from JoAnn, my very good friend. She would say to me, “What are you up to, you whirling dervish?!” And that’s how my name was born.”
Sue’s hallmarks include a fast smile and joyous laugh.
“I have words of advice for everybody,” she said, “whether they are going through treatment for cancer or not: Live life every day, don’t take anything about your life for granted, and keep on junkin’!”