Suelynn Gustafson, aka “Grandma Goth”, died Tuesday, March 26, 2013, age 71. I found out this morning from The Denver Post, the only proper response being “Damn.”
Suelynn was the only then-living character in the chapter titled Local Heroes & Villains of “Weird Colorado.” keeping company with the likes of Coloradan legends Alferd Packer, Doreal, Frank Hamilton Rice, Rattlesnake Kate, and Tom Tobin.
Back in the 1980s, a divorced single mom, she turned her back on a career of setting up pubs for a restaurant chain, dumped the career-gal look that would have done Mary Tyler Moore proud, and set up the remarkable Denver landmark known as Flossie McGrew’s.
Eventually, Flossie’s was moved next door to the family business Suelynn had inherited, Grandpa Snazzy’s Hardware. It’s the retail persona of Suelynn’s passion for the dark and strange, harbored since she was a child with a pet skunk.
Where Grandpa’s has a creaky and conventional antique hardware stock, Flossie’s is a combination of thrift store, Halloween get-up source, and supplier of antique oddities such as old prosthetic limbs.
Some time ago, Suelynn found she loved the look mauve shampoo gave to her whitening mane and began dying it her signature color ever since. Gold caps replaced a lot of her pearly whites, her wardrobe progressed to darkly bizarre. She was goth before it was cool, and without the brooding pose.
We kept in touch off and on since the book came out. “Loooove the book, ” was her verdict, delivered in her slightly gravelly voice that always seemed on the edge of a laugh.
We were supposed to get together for lunch sometime. I called last in January and found she was in the midst of some kind of legal wrangle, not up to going out.
“Gotta call you in the spring,” she said.
Suelynn’s son, TJ, says his mother had a heart attack and died in her Denver home. Plans for cremation and a memorial service are pending.
Suelynn was surely one of the most comfortable-in-her-own-skin people I’ve ever met. Far from morose despite her fascination with the morbid.
Can’t think of a better way to break my blogging block than with a tribute to this wonderfully weird and classy individual.
The Denver Post obituary can be found here. It erroneously states Suelynn to have been a “co-owner.”: http://www.denverpost.com/obituaries/ci_22903767/flossy-mcgrews-co-owner-gustafson-remembered-grandma-goth