Ken and Suzanne perfectly represent a spirit of sharing and generosity toward others that was such a hallmark of Lee’s life. Ken and Suzanne are always ready to lend a helping hand or words of encouragement to anyone who enters their circle. They represent the best of us as kite flyers and the best of us as human beings.
Though their direct contributions to kiting are many, the quiet way in which they encourage and support other people to do their best work and be their best selves is exemplary.
Perhaps it is only through giving that we can be most ready to receive. Ken and Suzanne know a thing or two about giving. They hosted Lee in their home on numerous occasions in order to help him give to others. They were inspired by him as he prepared for his many kite-building workshops or put the finishing touches on his early newsletters. Though many of Ken and Suzanne’s friends have met their daughter Nina, most of us are unaware that Nina is named in part after Lee. Her full name is Nina Lee Conrad. If a life is a circle, then the lives of Ken, Suzanne, Lee and Nina intersected in special ways.
When one spends time with Ken and Suzanne, you come away feeling fortunate to have had one’s life circle intersect with theirs. With that in mind, we hope you will consider Ken and Suzanne for the 2016 Lee Toy Kite Artist Award.
We are grateful to have Lee Toy’s older sister, Sunny, as well as Lee’s mother, Mary Jane, supporting Ken and Suzanne’s nomination for the Lee Toy Award, named for their brother and son. Below is a letter from Sunny and Mary Jane in which they talk about Lee and why Ken and Suzanne are ideal recipients of this award.
He was also very modest and, in spite of being Lee’s older sister, I didn’t realize he was famous in the kiting circles. He was just my kite-loving brother. It was always magical to see how effortlessly he could make, test and fly a new kite that he had made. He never got frustrated with me for not having the kite gene, for I couldn’t get anything to fly. He was an early organizer of the Father’s Day Kite Fly on San Francisco’s Marina Green, and he once made the most beautiful grandfather’s clock kite to fly there. For early contests, he made all the awards himself from hand-lettered gold cardboard circles with ribbons attached. He wrote a colorful newsletter, called the “Kite Flier” with articles, kite plans and updates on kiting events. Subscriptions only cost $5, or as he used to say, “A trip to the Doggie Diner.” My claim to fame is that when he couldn’t think of what to name the newsletter, I said, “What about the Kite Flyer?” The rest is history.
Lee could make things fly that you wouldn’t think possible, like meat trays. He competed for prizes for largest kite and smallest kite and everything in between. He did many workshops to teach kids how to make his sled kites. He brought beauty and joy to the skies with hundreds of colorful kites made by children.
Lee is missed, but you can tell he has a special place in our hearts as our brother, a son, a kite lover and a friend. You know he is special when you can feel that warmth and glow that spreads over you when thinking about him. He left us his love of kiting as a legacy.
I think the Lee Toy Artist Award represents a kite person or people who are creative and artistic and share their love of kites with a spirit of joy. They would be tinkerers, makers, innovators. The people I would like to nominate for 2016 embody Lee’s accomplishments. They are Suzanne Sadow and Ken Conrad. Suzanne and Ken have been in kiting since the early days with Lee. They have been active in kiting for over 40 years! They are welcoming to everyone in the kiting community, on and off the field. How many of us have enjoyed a delicious meal in their home to discuss kiting, life and adventure? Lee used to visit them often and made kites in their basement. He produced his newsletter and got ready for Ft. Worden kite workshops at their house and also in their car en route to Ft. Worden, I’m told. Suzanne and Ken are kite ambassadors wherever they go. They will help anyone who has an interest in kiting. They’ve had a successful kite business and have gone to Asia to explore the world of traditional Chinese kite-making. They now spread joy with their kite kits sold throughout the U.S. and the world. Ken is active with kite aerial photography, as well as keeping busy designing and printing kite skins. He even makes his own kite parts on his 3-D printer! Suzanne has her own kite designs, presents workshops, and loves helping people and organizing events, as well as working in the kite business. She is always smiling and has her tin of delicious homemade biscotti to share at kite raffles. Both nominees are great kite historians and friends of kite builders and flyers around the world.
Through Lee telling us about Suzanne, Ken and their daughter, Nina, I knew I needed to meet these special people that meant so much to Lee and to find out about Ft. Worden. Around the year 2000, I got to go to Ft. Worden, where Suzanne and Ken were helping with the event. There I experienced their amazing hospitality toward my mom and me. I hope others will join us in voting for Ken and Suzanne to win the Lee Toy Kite Artist of the Year Award. It would give us such pleasure to be able to personally present this award to them at Seaside. We believe they truly deserve it not only for the reasons mentioned above, but also because of their connection to and friendship with Lee. Thank you for your consideration.