Celebrating Sally Siegel
by Barb Gross
Oct 31, 2013 | 5881 views | 1 1 comments | 133 133 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sally Siegel, 1952-2013
Sally Siegel, 1952-2013
Her life credo was “More is better...Reach for the brass ring!” and Sally Siegel definitely walked her talk.  Everything she did was approached with gusto, enthusiasm, joy and unflagging energy.  She quite literally savored everything she dove into. Whether it was painting, pottery, stained glass, people, teaching, gardening, cooking, eating, piano, reading, flying, skiing, hiking, golfing, rafting, kayaking, or her latest passion, long distance biking, she plunged right in.  Yes, she really did all of those things! And, Sally did not dabble in any of these pursuits; she immersed her whole self, devouring them with a passionate tenacity.

Perhaps the area where most people saw Sally’s commitment to being “all in” was in her dealings with people.  Sally gave, gave, gave and then gave some more. She was the best friend that you could ever hope to have and if she loved you, it was always unconditional. If you were Sally’s student, friend, family or co-worker you knew that you could always count on her.  Sally was the solution lady (sometimes infuriatingly so!). Creative, out of the box solutions were her specialty.  You could lay any problem at her feet and she would always come up with a brilliant yet pragmatic solution…or 3 and a back-up plan.  Seriously, 3 was Sally’s magic number.  Try something at least 3 times before you decided it wasn’t for you, was her standard advice. Giving up was NEVER an option.  You might need to go back and re-work the solution several times, but for Sally, there was almost always a solution.

She was also the ultimate prankster.  During her lifetime Sally engineered so many pranks that it was often difficult to know whether she was serious or teasing.  She loved inventing shenanigans and relished planning gorgeously layered and brilliantly intricate pranks.  Her sense of humor was contagious and those around her often found themselves caught up in the planning and execution of these pranks.  Although her pranks usually resulted in raucous laughter, they occasionally backfired. But, even then, they were usually worth a few yuks. Sally loved to laugh and did so often and quite loudly.  She used to say that she was born with the happy gene. 

Born in Binghamton, New York, the youngest child of Sam and Louise Siegel, Sally was treated like a little princess and a little adult equally. She adored and was in turn adored by her big brothers, Pidge, Brock and Richard and maintained a particularly close relationship with Richard throughout her life.  Sally’s family had mastered the art of the 3-hour meal and she carried on the tradition throughout her life.  Rich, scrumptious epicurean delights and provocative conversation was the fare at these meals. Dining with Sally was always a delightful EVENT.

In 1974, Sally graduated from the University of Miami with a B.A in Elementary Education/Special Education.  Then, it was off to St. Croix where she taught and inspired students for a few years.  After returning to the mainland, Sally did a stint as a river guide before landing in Telluride, Colorado in 1981. Her life in Telluride began as a tile setter and it was while laying tile that she met Dave Mattner, her soul mate and the love of her life.  On June 4, 2011 Sally and Dave celebrated their lifelong love affair at a surprise wedding at a dear friend’s home down valley. 

In 1981, Sally was offered a position at Rainbow Preschool and soon became the director.  As the director at Rainbow, she loved, motivated and guided children, parents and teachers for 20 years before retiring in 2001.  Sally was passionately committed to providing safe, affordable, stimulating programming to Telluride’s children and spearheaded an effort to provide a permanent structure for Rainbow. That structure still stands at 535 W. Colorado.  For years, Sally could be seen pulling the Rainbow rope around town, or piling the kids into the van for rich, memorable adventures.  

After retiring in 2001, Sally embarked on a year of play….but got so carried away by her pursuits – oil painting, stained glass, pottery, golf, hiking, skiing, kayaking and biking that she extended her semi-retirement for two more years. Moderation was never Sally’s strong suit.

In 2003 Sally took a job with the Telluride School District, working with special needs students. She loved her students with passion and zeal…working tirelessly to help them reach their full potential.  While working for the district, Sally’s commitment to excellence was regularly recognized.  She was awarded the Superintendent’s Award of Excellence in 2008 and again in 2009, was presented with the Special Education Appreciation Award in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and the Outstanding Teacher Award in 2007 and 2008.

Sally lived down valley from Telluride until 2011 when the Bureau of Land Management evicted she and Dave from the land they called home.  After a bitter and heartbreaking five-year battle, they were forced to leave the land that they had lived on and loved for 30 years.  Sally’s indomitable spirit prevailed however, as she and Dave set off for another epic adventure. They moved to Pine Island, Florida where they commenced a life of kayaking, biking, reading, golfing and loving life once again.  Then in April of 2012, they set off on their bikes from Madrid, Spain and biked through beautiful and rugged terrain until reaching their final destination…Paris, France!  They rested and regrouped for a while and then in April of 2013 once again hit the road on their bikes. This time they set off from Florida and ended their trip in Nova Scotia.  Along the way on this 4000-mile journey they touched and inspired many, many lives and made a plethora of new friends. In October of 2013, they returned to Florida and had already begun planning their next cross-country adventure across the US. That was not to be however.  At 9 p.m. on October 24, 2013, at the age of 61, Sally experienced a massive assault to her system, most likely a cardiac event and never recovered. She went quickly and did not suffer.

Sally was outrageous, captivating and irreverent and entertaining as hell!  Her love of life and sense of humor were unfailing, a true gift.  For those of you who were lucky enough to know her, you know that Sally wanted no fuss or fanfare in life or at her passing.  Her legacy will live on if you add an element of zest to your life.  Do something adventurous or fun or exciting or challenging or delicious and think of her.  Come to think of it even if you did not know Sally, have an exciting adventure in her honor. Become your best, most engaged self. Live life to the fullest…Sally always did and inspired countless others by her infectious example.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
November 01, 2013
Our kids were so lucky to have Sally, she will be missed .