The philanthropist who rode circus elephants
October 2nd, 2016
Sue Carey is underwriting a new ballet–“The Osiris Legend,” a myth about a king who marries his sister. The Oct. 6 premiere at Ruth Page Center features Ron De Jesus Dance Company.
“It’s a fun way to give back,” says Carey, the Renaissance woman married to Tom Carey. He’s part of the Hawthorne Race Course family.
Sue Carey’s life is woven in the arts. She studied opera growing up in England and performed on West End theater stages and the BBC.
At 19, she left London to join Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus under the big top in Commack, N.Y. and around the country. She was an aerialist and equestrian–even riding elephants.
“You could say I ran away and joined the circus,” she says. “It’s when circuses were important to small towns.”
After a stop in New Orleans, Carey stayed back and took a job as a radio personality. That led to another gig in Chicago with Weigel Broadcasting.
She met her husband while starting up a flea market. Carey needed space, and the race track had plenty. She and Tom Carey became fast friends and married in 1981. She’s been by his side as he lives with Alzheimer’s.
The Careys for years served as child guardians–eight in total. She even wrote a musical about the experience–“Africa and Plumbridge” played in Chicago and New York.
The ballet she’s backing is pure myth–but no less interesting.
“A story ballet is so rare these days,” says Carey, a woman as rare as they come.