Mary Sue Morris
A Life Extraordinaire
A fearless visionary with a can-do attitude, boundless energy and an unparalleled sense of fun, adventure and style, Mary Sue Morris was perhaps the most dynamite business woman Puerto Vallarta has ever seen, her ultra-glamorous Viva jewelry store and Viva Girls the talk of the town. Now representing more than a thousand designers from around the world, Viva’s in a league of its own, quintessential Mary Sue, her passion for travel in search of the exceptional evident throughout.
Many of us were privileged to know her since Viva opened nine years ago, although she had been visiting here since the early ‘70s. And it turns out this native Texan has had an impact on many a place, working as hard as she played and missing no opportunity to try out a new activity or idea. In Antigua, Guatemala, she created an elegant colonial inn, Posada Del Angel, whose guest list includes the leaders of several countries. And in Cincinnati, Ohio, she transformed an old bank into a classy retail arcade, and a run-down police station into a restaurant now anchoring a thriving neighborhood.
She had an uncanny ability to recognize potential, totally trusting her intuition, says business partner Ivonne Anzueto, whom Mary Sue spotted for the first time gamely struggling to walk again following surgery. “Stick around, kiddo, because it is going to be the rollercoaster of your life,” she told her soon after. And she was right, Ivonne crediting Mary Sue with being the best mentor anyone could ever have. “She challenged me to take risks in life and business, with no regrets.”
Mary Sue left Vallarta for the last time August 22, and she and Ivonne began their final journey together – the annual month-long trip of back-to-back jewelry shows as far away as Hong Kong. “And while it was clear she wasn’t feeling well, she never complained.” And one of the last things the woman she considered her second mother told her was, “You have never wasted a moment of your life, and that is how I live also, life far too precious for that.”
When not traveling the globe, Mary Sue loved playing bridge and tennis, salsa dancing, shopping and laughing with good friends. Twice married, she was stepmother to four and a graduate of Southern Methodist University, and also lived in Paris and New York. Born in Texas on October 5, 1938, she died there March 17, 2007.
And tributes, like the following from her dearest friends, continue pouring in.
Mary Sue was always energetic, interesting and full of life. She made me feel unique and valuable. She was very generous with her time and with her friendships. She introduced many people, who in turn became firm friends. Her most incredible gift was making you feel you had a very special place in her heart. I will miss her. Right now, a Texan twang makes me cry. It is a loss I am unable to digest.
– Karen Jones, Switzerland
My darling dearest friend is gone. Oh, how I will miss her contagious laugh, spontaneity and energy. I will miss our trips together, always full of fun and adventure. I see how important her contribution was to Vallarta. She gave PV style and quality like no other. She had hundreds and hundreds of friends and not one enemy. She was respected for her keen business sense, generosity and loyalty. “Viva, Mary Sue! You will always be in my heart.”
– Kathy Small, Puerto Vallarta, also speaking on behalf of Harriet Murray and Peter and Tari Bowman.
The Viva Girls: A Dash of Class and a Lot of Marketing Savvy
Surprises happen in Vallarta when you least expect them, like when having dinner at a nice restaurant, say. And suddenly, four gorgeous women in capes glide in, appearing before you smiling broadly. Then, with a dramatic flourish, they whip their capes off in unison to reveal not only perfect skin and posture, but also clothes and accessories to die for.
You have just met the Viva Girls.
Dressed head to toe in Viva merchandise, these women are the brainchild of owner Mary Sue Morris, whose hip designer fashions make anyone look like a million bucks.
“We’re OPCs in pareos, our job to get people into the store,” says six-year Viva Girl veteran Jackie Vaca, spokesperson for the other core members of this university-educated team: Mar Maciel, Diana Hernandez and Fabiola Gonzalez. “All of us are very proud to work as Viva Girls and we love our jobs. And why wouldn’t we? We get paid to look beautiful and have fun!”
“A couple of years ago, Daiquiri Dick’s invited us to participate in their Celebrity Scavenger Hunt by standing at various locations around town, with clues pinned to the inside of our capes. And famous personalities like Christopher Reeve and Kelsey Grammer had to reach in to read them, laughing a lot. And they wanted their pictures taken with us — as if we’re the ones who are famous!”
As it turns out, these ultra-elegant ambassadors for the Viva store are real people like you and me, with anecdotes about being in the line of duty. And that means making the rounds of 18 venues two nights a week, as well as greeting cruise passengers and showing up at special events.
“We’ve walked into places and heard people joke that the Taliban just arrived. But they quickly change their tune! Truth be told, at one of Viva’s anniversary parties a few years ago, one of us, how shall I put this, ‘came undone.’ Well, actually their sarong did. Just for a second, but long enough to be embarrassing, that’s for sure!
“None of us is the least bit competitive and we’re actually great friends. We call Diana our Red Power Ranger, because she looks wonderful in that color and gets a lot of attention. Don Luis, our driver, is a doll. And I met my husband doing this! A waiter at De Santos, I slipped him a note one night and we’ve been married six years now and have a little girl. (Two of the four are mothers.)
“Restaurants enjoy the aura of glamour we bring. And we enjoy smelling all those delicious cuisines! But if we go to work hungry, it’s torture. And what usually happens at the end of the night is that we go home and have a big bowl of Fruit Loops.”