Say it ain’t so, Mud Hen!
She’s been trying to break it to Boone gently, but Darlene McCoy really is retiring. After all, 32 years teaching is a long career by any measure. Wait a minute, she’s done that already.
McCoy capped a very successful teaching career more than two decades ago. But retirement isn’t something that comes naturally to McCoy, so she took up clowning in the early 1990s.
McCoy’s second career as Mud Hen the Clown has now stretched some 22 years and finally, at age 83, she is retiring again.
“The clown career was kind of the frosting on the cake,” says McCoy.
When McCoy headed to Clown College for the first time at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, she figured she’d spend about five years clowning.
“They told us that it takes seven years to develop your character, so I knew I was in for the long haul,” she reflects.
And it’s clear that all those years come without a moment of regret. McCoy says clowning knows no age, and she’s had as fun much making older generations laugh as she has with the kids.
“You’re in the business of spreading smiles,” and that’s rewarding every time, she notes.
Named the Iowa State Teacher of the Year in 1981 – 82 and the National Teacher of the Year Honor Roll the same year, McCoy is just as proud of her Governor’s Volunteer Service Award for her clowning work with the elderly.
Even in clowning, she found education a vital way to expand her career. McCoy attended Clown College nine times in Wisconsin, twice in Minnesota and once in Missouri.
“They say if you can’t have fun at Clown Camp, there’s something wrong with you,” she teases.
McCoy also enjoyed learning from professional clowns and became close friends with Frosty Little, a member of the Clown Hall of Fame and one of only four clowns to ever earn the Master Clown designation from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
As Mud Hen the Clown, she traveled coast to coast, entertaining in her grandchildren’s classrooms from Florida to Oregon, and throughout central Iowa at schools, nursing homes, business functions, birthday parties galore and more parades and other events than she could ever count.
“My cup runneth over,” McCoy concludes of her life, her family and career.