The National Marine Manufacturers Association said it was sad to share the news that Suzi DuRant, 67, who most recently spearheaded the association’s efforts in South Carolina, died recently.
DuRant, who was the NMMA’s South Carolina executive director, died peacefully Feb. 25 after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, that the NMMA said she fought with grace, optimism and perseverance.
“We are heartbroken to experience such a great loss. We’ll not only miss Suzi’s unwavering dedication to our industry, but her genuine and thoughtful friendship,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich said in the association’s newsletter Currents.
“Suzi had a unique ability to inspire those around her with her optimism and passion for her life and work. She possessed a fierce work ethic and was an intelligent and compassionate leader who will forever leave an impact on those who knew her. Suzi put her heart and soul into all she accomplished and will be greatly missed.”
DuRant began her advocacy career in Washington, D.C., with the American Bankers Association. She later worked in public affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department under Secretaries John Connally and George Schultz, serving primarily as a speechwriter and press aide for Under Secretary for International Monetary Affairs Paul Volcker.
She later worked at Golembe Associates, a private banking consulting firm, where she specialized in international banking.
After eight years of the rat race, DuRant and her husband, Nelson, left Washington, D.C., on their boat, Sanctuary, for an adventure in sailing. The adventure lasted 13 years, culminating with a trans-Atlantic passage.
Her years sailing and chartering from Maine to the Caribbean gave DuRant a depth of knowledge in and commitment to the boating world. Time spent managing marinas with her husband along Chesapeake Bay further increased her expertise.
In 1996 she and her husband moved to Charleston, S.C., where they started a marine business. Almost immediately, she immersed herself as a volunteer with the South Carolina Marine Association, chairing the boat show committee and serving on the board.
In 2006 DuRant went from a volunteer to a paid staff member as executive director of the SCMA. Through her own perseverance and strong will, she led the industry in South Carolina, assuming control of the Clean Marina program to keep it viable when state agencies decided they could not do it any longer. She has lobbied the South Carolina legislature on behalf of recreational boating on a wide range of issues, from taxation to dredging.
Most recently, DuRant represented the industry on the State Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Task Force and oversaw industry participation in the South Carolina Water Safety Coalition.
For many years she produced the Charleston In-Water Boat Show with an all-volunteer staff and has worked to restore the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, advocating in the South Carolina legislature and serving on the board of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association.
DuRant received the NMMA Lifetime Achievement Award during last year’s American Boating Congress.
“Suzi makes sure NMMA remains highly involved in industry issues throughout the state of South Carolina and has created strong advocates for recreational boating among South Carolina’s members of Congress, the state legislature and state agencies,” Dammrich said at the time. “Her unwavering work has created long-lasting, positive changes for the state of South Carolina and the boating industry at large, and we thank her for her commitment.
DuRant was a regular at ABC as a prominent advocate for South Carolina and the industry.
The NMMA held a retirement celebration for DuRant last June in Charleston, S.C., with a number of industry leaders.
One notable message came from Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who thanked DuRant for her hard work, dedication and support of the South Carolina boating community, adding, “I am proud to commend you on a job well done, and on a more personal note, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the courage you have shown in your fight with ALS. You have never, ever given up. And your courage serves as an inspiration for us all. I am humbled by your spirit and your faith.”
There will be a memorial service for DuRant on April 1 at 3:30 p.m. at the French Huguenot Church, 136 Church St., Charleston, S.C., with a reception to follow at 44 Queen St.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests supporting Suzi’s Team in the MDA Muscle Walk in Charleston here or making a donation in her name to the MDA of Charleston, S.C.