Gray’s Eulogy (Gray Booth)

Thank you all for being here as we remember and celebrate the life of Sally Booth. It is comforting to be with so many people who were dear to Mom and to know that we all share the feeling that she is dear to us. And I also want to acknowledge and thank Linda and Jamey for enthusiastically agreeing to share their thoughts and remembrances of Sally. Although her physical presence is gone, Sally lives on in all of us here today.

Sally grew up during the depression in a family with a progressive, social worker mother and a conservative, authoritarian, military father – both of whom were very kind and loving. She learned compassion for others in less fortunate circumstances when her mother made sandwiches for the “rag and bone” men that came to the back door; and when her parents vouched for their Japanese gardener and his wife, allowing them to avoid internment during the war. Her concern with social justice and non-violence continued throughout her life.

Sally was intellectually curious and adventurous: seeking new ideas, keeping abreast of the current trends, and always eager to learn and try new things. She was an avid reader – and always reading several books at once, keeping them scattered throughout the house, so she always had one within arm’s reach.

Mom loved the comfort and security of nest-building, surrounding herself with lovely things, and she generously shared her home with others. To me, the epitome of her nest-building was the one she made each summer for my brothers and me when we were young and would all drive down to Florida to visit her parents. The station wagon seats were folded down and a thin mattress covered with a cotton sheet laid across the flat deck. Like a big crib on wheels for the three of us. But the best part was that she prepared a small suitcase for each of us filled with games and books and puzzles to keep us occupied on the long, 3-day trip.

Many friends remember, and still talk about, the annual Christmas Eve party she and Dad hosted for many years. She enjoyed engaging, witty conversation. She was a good listener and had a knack for making people feel special. She loved sharing meals with lots of family and friends at her table.

At a time when very few women worked outside their home, Sally had a long, engaging, challenging, and fulfilling career. It was at Roeper School that Sally met Mariann Hoag, who became one of her closest friends. Their careers intertwined at Roeper, but they were much more than work colleagues. She became another member of our nuclear family, and was quite like a sister to Mom.

Sally considered herself fortunate to begin working at Roeper during its early, formative years. She quickly established herself as an influential force in the school’s development, first as a teacher, then assistant director of the lower school, later as admissions director, and finally as trustee. Working alongside Annemarie Roeper and Mariann, Sally not only helped to realize and promote the progressive and inclusive ideals of the school, but also helped to shape those ideals. Throughout her life, Sally always had an easy rapport with kids – they immediately felt comfortable and safe with her. And it always fascinated her to observe children playing.

At age 70, after a long career and life in Birmingham, she and my father started another great adventure: they sold their house, built a new one on the shore of Lake Michigan in Leland, and moved 250 miles away to a new life. Mom quickly made many new friends, got involved with social groups and volunteer activities and welcomed many old and new friends to her lovely home. She was excited, as she put it, “to live in such a beautiful, quiet world and to have time to think and to pay attention.”

Near the end when Mom could no longer walk or talk intelligibly, and she was dependent on the multiple caregivers coming and going, I would always be amused when an unknown caregiver would appear and Mom’s reaction would be to flash them her big generous smile, and they would be totally disarmed. Cheerfulness was not something Mom put on, or had to work at, it was ingrained in who she was. It came easily to her, effortlessly and consistently. She was blessed with that gift and she gave it freely to everyone she met.

When I think of my mother, I picture her smiling face, of course, and I get a warm, calm, enveloping feeling. And so I don’t worry too much about the inevitable fading of the memory of her voice, or of what she said or did, because I know I’ll always remember how she made me feel. 

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