TUCUMCARI — Tuesday was Mike and Sue Day’s 42nd wedding anniversary.
They met when she was a waitress at the Hitching Post, an Albuquerque bar that Mike frequented. One day, on her shift, he asked her to dance. She said she couldn’t because she was working.
“So I took her tray, set it on the table, and said, ‘now you’re not,’ ” he recalled.
Then they danced down the bar aisle.
Tuesday was also the day that Mike Day buried Sue and their daughter, Sherry Day Folts, in Tucumcari.
Police say they were both killed by the Days’ adopted son, Tony, just over two weeks ago, at their home on the outskirts of town. He was one of about 103 children, Mike figures, who they have fostered over the years.
But questions about what happened and why were put aside Tuesday.
Instead, several hundred people gathered at the Quay County Exhibition Hall in Tucumcari to remember Sue, 67, and Sherry, 49. The service had to be moved from the Temple Baptist Church to accommodate all the friends and family who wanted to come, many of whom called Mike and Sue “mom and dad” over the years.
“My Aunt Sue and Uncle Mike started taking in strays and needy children and misbehaving children way long ago, and I was one of them,” said Laurie Maynes, the Days’ niece who now lives in Los Lunas, at a reception after the funeral. “They took us in when we needed them the most.”
She said the Days taught her to say “yes ma’am” and “yes sir.”
” ‘Cuz that’s what you said,” Maynes said. “Aunt Sue was a firm hand but she was fair.”
The refrain among family and friends who spoke about Sue Day was that she was a no-nonsense woman — but a big-hearted one.
“She was compassionate. She wasn’t warm and fuzzy,” said Traci Tippett, a friend and grief counselor who works with foster and adoptive families. “She shot it straight.”
Sue and Mike Day moved to Tucumcari from Albuquerque around 1997. They raised five kids before starting to care for foster kids about seven years ago. They adopted Tony and another son, Scott, four or five years ago. Scott Day helped wrest the shotgun away from Tony before he could kill anyone else in the home, according to police.
Sherry Folts moved back in with the Days in 2010 while she was battling cancer and helped out with the foster children, said Pastor Wes Stewart. She took after her mother, he said, showing appreciation by crocheting house slippers for ladies at church.
The Days are well known among the foster and adoptive communities in New Mexico. Sue Day worked as a liaison to mentor and train other foster parents, and she and Mike would always take in needy children, day or night.
Sue Day would not have wanted the attention bestowed upon her Tuesday, Stewart said.
“Mama wouldn’t want us all to be sitting around drop-jawed, crying and all,” said Mike Day, while encouraging people to share stories about Sue. “She’d have wanted a party.”
Trailing off, he added, “Well, it’s not much of a party …”
Michael Jendusa, 19, said he lived with the Days for several years in high school as a foster child. He described Sue Day as generous and caring. Jendusa and his sister Kelli said they know Tony. They said he didn’t like all of the rules the Days had.
“He wanted to run away. He wanted to do something, something to get away from her,” Jendusa said, who now goes to school at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Mike Day said he and Sue began fostering children because they wind up in bad situations that are not their fault.
“Kids, they don’t need to be thrown out like they’re garbage, because they’re not,” he said.
Day said he struggled to come up with adjectives to describe Sue and Sherry to the pastor.
“How would I describe them?” Day asked. “Right now, murdered.”
He told Pastor Stewart that Sue Day was his best friend and the love of his life. He said he agrees with all the kind things people said about his wife.
“For me to even try to add to what they’ve already said, I don’t think I can,” he said. “Not right now. Later on, I might think of a way to put it all together, but at this time I listen to everyone else. I tear up and I cry. Because she was special, in a lot of ways to many different people.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal