If you happen to be in Kingston, Ontario on any given non-pandemic weekend summer day and drop by the Kingston Brewing Company at happy hour, don’t be surprised if you bump into one of Oswego’s leading couples of music and song: Redd and Sue Swindells. It is one of their all time favorite haunts, and they have made the trek there over the high-span Alexandria Bay Bridge to Canada many times over the last thirty years or more. In fact, they are so well known among the Kingston community that Redd actually serves as a judge in their annual hot sauce contest.
Sue is retired from her position as a vocal music instructor at Frederick Leighton Elementary School in 2008. Sue is a native of Virginia and graduated from Lynchburg College. She also studied music at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester.
Redd, who also holds a degree in economics from SUNY Oswego, retired from his employment at the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Generating Facility as an operator in 2007. They met through the Oswego Opera Theater, and were married in Oswego in 1985.
Redd’s avocation is music and his instrument is the trumpet. He also plays the saxophone. He is a regular performer during the Oswego federation of musicians summer band concert series on Wednesday nights in Breitbeck Park. Redd also joins Stan Gosek’s Freefall band for several gigs per year.
Redd and Sue both are involved in and have been Oswego Opera Theatre members for dozens of years, as has their daughter, Kara. Kara is a health professional in the Phoenix area. The Swindells have both been involved in many dozens of opera productions: Sue on stage, and Redd in the orchestra pit.
There have four grown grandchildren and two great grand kids.
They still live in their home at on East Seneca Street, which they have transformed and greatly enlarged.
In her retirement years, Sue has become an avid gardener and crafter, while Redd still enjoys his hobby of Ham radio operator.
My most vivid recollection of Sue is her standing on a ladder, high above the crushing crowd, to direct an all city elementary chorus in singing jingle bells at the first Children’s Christmas tree lighting in front of City Hall, in 1988 (see photo below).
Over 9,000 people crowded into what was to later become the City Hall Plaza to sing, decorate the forty foot tree, sip some hot chocolate and cookies, and welcome Santa who helicoptered in for the occasion. That night was the largest tree lighting crowd ever to assemble in Oswego to this day, and Sue was right in the thick of it.
Sue held her baton high to instruct the several hundred strong chorus of carolers. It was indeed a memorable event and a testament to her wide spectrum of ability to energize, organize, and keep people in tune.
While Redd fills his cheeks and loads his trumpet with air that comes out of the horn in sweet and swinging sounds, Sue makes others sing in sweet unison and harmony.They are a “make it happen” kind of couple who not only enjoy each other’s company, but the company of others as well. Next time you see him, ask him to play “Sweet Sue, just you!”, and that should be guaranteed to light up Redd’s eyes. We hope they keep on singin’ many years to come.
John T. Sullivan is a former Oswego Mayor and the author of three books, “Forks In The Road” parts I and II and an autobiography “Pee Not Your Pants — Memoirs of a small time mayor with big time ideas,” available locally in the river’s end bookstore and online. His column appears exclusively in The Palladium-Times on the first Thursday of each month.