There is likely no other tuba ever as loved by its owner than “Susie,” Major Harry Foden’s cherished sousaphone.
When Harry met Susie
By: Major Frank Duracher
It was love at first sight. From the moment Harry laid eyes on Susie, he was smitten. Though just an adolescent, Harry knew this was not puppy love. He was serious about Susie and from the start Harry wanted nothing more than to spend every waking moment with “the love of his life.”
This love affair would not be the typical courtship enjoyed by young lovers. As we will see in a moment, Harry and Susie would spend many happy years together. Theirs was an unusual bond—a relationship forged through a combination of hard labor and tireless love.
Harry loved Susie, and yet Susie never reciprocated that love. She couldn’t.
It comes as no surprise then, that Harry would eventually encounter yet another love in his life. Her name was Mildred Kirby, a young Salvation Army lieutenant stationed at Harry’s corps. Perhaps with Mildred as his wife, Harry could settle down, raise a family, and forget about Susie.
But that was not to be. On the surface, many were shocked to realize that Susie continued to be “the other woman” in Harry’s life — and continued to be until his dying day.
What’s more shocking, is that Mildred knew all about Susie. Furthermore, she tolerates the affair! You’ll understand why, once you know The Rest Of The Army’s Story.
To be fair, Harry owes much to Susie. She was partly responsible for his being drawn to The Salvation Army. The old bandmaster at Harry’s corps invited him to play in the band, and thereafter Harry never missed a practice! And these were precious hours Harry was able to spend with his beloved Susie. To Harry, there was nowhere else on earth he’d rather be.
So Harry and Susie became an item — musical, if not romantic. Before long, Harry and Susie became quite a duo. Everywhere he went, she went as well. Their musical bond earned them appearances on radio and television. Their music has been heard on many street corners in countless cities during Harry’s career as a Salvation Army Officer. And even in retirement, in Asheville, North Carolina, Harry and Susie remained fixtures each Christmas Kettle Season — producing their unique style of music which could only be borne by true love.
They’ve shared some great memories, Harry and Susie. One time they were appearing in concert, and during a certain number featuring them, a little boy sitting on the front row got tickled and started giggling. Soon the whole congregation was snickering with him. The growing laughter became infectious, and even Harry had to stop playing for a moment to laugh himself. Soon, he regained his composure and, with Susie, resumed playing.
Harry served as instructor in many music camps and conservatories for the divisions in which he and Mildred were appointed. And yet, there was Susie — at his side just like always.
Majors Harry & Mildred Foden retired after a long and successful career to their beloved western North Carolina mountains. At the Asheville Corps, he and Susie were as hot an item as ever—duetting in the Corps Band, at Open-Air Meetings, and at Christmas Kettle locations.
And no, Mildred still didn’t mind. “I’ve learned to live with playing ‘second fiddle’ to Susie,” she once confessed. It was a recognition on Mrs. Foden’s part to know that Susie has indeed been in Harry’s life longer than she. It was almost an unspoken understanding even as they took their marriage vows, that Susie would always hold a sacred and endearing corner in Harry’s heart.
For years, the family joked about the possibility of a house fire—would Harry save Mildred or Susie, given a choice.
It is a wonderful thing to witness a bond between a man and his instrument. Because “Susie” is none other than the glistening sousaphone young Harry took up as a teen, and played nearly to his recent Promotion to Glory.
Major Harry Foden was laid to rest at the Western North Carolina Veteran’s Cemetery near Black Mountain, with full U.S. Air Force honors. Susie was even there at the funeral service, being played by Foden’s grandson-in-law, Lieutenant Jeffery Brooks, to whom the bass horn was bequeathed. Susie remains in very capable hands.
Many a youngster has learned to play—many a music lover has enjoyed their melody—all because a long time ago, Susie became something of Harry’s first love. You know what beautiful music they made together for more than 70 years, because Now You Know the Rest of the Army’s story.