A walk down any street in Saugerties with Sally Colclough is like attending a large and happy class reunion.
“Hi, Mrs. Colclough, you were my eighth grade social studies teacher.”
“Hello, Sally, we did well with the fundraiser at the French Club Flea Market, didn’t we?”
“Sally, you were great with Tommy when he had that problem in school.”
These are some of the introductory comments to a 15-minute walk down memory lane with the Saugertiesians encountered in town, at shops or at special events. The greeters range in age from young adults to grandparents. What they have in common is an affectionate memory of their encounters with Sally Colclough.
These warm and welcoming greetings derive from Sally’s 30 years of teaching social studies, European history and economics in Saugerties, and her deep involvement in the community. More than one generation of students and parents recognize and appreciate the teacher who introduced them to the world and its promise. They may have served in the Armed Forces and come home to Saugerties. Or they may have stayed and made a home in their familiar town. In either case, Sally has made an impression on them which has lasted for 10, 20 or 30 years.
As for community involvement, the little girl who grew up in Glasco became a woman bent on service to her town and its people. Sally’s description of Glasco in 1940 is a snapshot of the history of Saugerties. The area was a self-contained immigrant community populated by men and women from Sicily who had come to the Catskills for jobs and land. As Sally tells it, each family had a plot of land which they divided from each other via fences and high hedges. Within, the Davi (Sally’s maiden name) enclave were vegetable gardens, chickens, ducks and a large pig that created a fuss when she got into the house.
The men of Glasco worked as brick makers in the factory down by the river while their wives maintained traditional Italian homes. Dad made the rules while mom ran the house and disciplined the children. Chores were part of each day and you were expected to stay on the property and play with your siblings. The hamlet contained a grocery store, a few shops and a bar. If you needed clothing or anything else, Mom, who didn’t drive, would take you on the bus to Kingston where the big shopping took place.
The Davi brothers owned a bakeshop and delivered bread throughout the area. As Sally puts it, “Everyone knew everyone, so you couldn’t get away with anything.”
Sally, bored with just her younger brother, Joseph, to play with, made a hole in the lilacs and fencing between her home and that of a little girl next door. The two would trade Barbie dolls through the hole and engage in play. The plot was soon foiled when Sally’s father found and fixed the hole in the fence. However, the creativity involved in finding a way through barriers was to emerge in later years as leadership and problem-solving skills.
After attending the Glasco School with its two classes at each grade level, students from Glasco took the commercial Mountainview bus to Main St., Saugerties and attended Cahill, which was a high school at the time. Upon graduation, Sally earned a scholarship to Syracuse University. She’d planned to major in medicine until taking her first college-level science class. Deciding that historical blood and guts were more interesting than actual ones, she transferred her major to history and earned a bachelor of science in social studies and education.
While attending university, Sally worked summers as a waitress in her uncle’s restaurant in Kingston. Here she met her future husband, Walter, who worked in a bank around the corner and lived in Catskill.
Upon graduation, Sally came home to Glasco intending to seek a job away from home. Fate intervened as the superintendent of schools called to tell her of a job opening teaching high school social studies and economics. The wider world’s loss was Saugerties gain as Sally embarked on a satisfying and successful career in town.
She married, bought a home on Main St. and managed to fit the births of four children into her life: two sons, Scott, who lives in Colorado and Patrick, who lives in Utah; and two daughters, Stephanie, who lives in Saugerties and Kimberley, who lives in New Hampshire. Between them, they’ve added 11 grandchildren to Sally’s life.
Not satisfied with teaching and parenting, the activist who lived inside Sally brought her to the League of Women Voters in 1970. Her choice of activity within the organization is voter service. Over the course of 34 years, this modest citizen has organized and overseen voter information candidate forums, candidate debates, voter guidelines, explaining the issues at local, state and national levels and has participated in the league’s research into important legislation.
Saugerties benefitted from this energy as Sally served as a library trustee for 13 years, recently retiring after helping to husband the new library addition to fruition. She is a member of the Monday Club, a women’s organization dedicated to education and charitable service, and the Rip Van Winkle Hikers club as well.
Quiet and thoughtful when you first meet her, it wouldn’t occur to you that this mother, widowed in 1978, is a fighter for causes. As she puts it, “I love each of my children totally and urgently. And, they’re going to complain that only Patrick gets special mention.”
Sally’s son Patrick is a gay man who lives comfortably with his identity and the love and support of his mother. Sally has marched in many gay pride parades and is an advocate for the rights of gay, lesbian and transsexual citizens. She has spoken at parent meetings and at rallies for change in the laws and is a member of Parents and Friends of Lesbians, Gays and Transsexuals. Her first-hand knowledge of how hard it is for those who are different to be accepted and loved for who they really are fuels her commitment to the work.
Sally has spent and is continuing to spend her admirable intellect, brave spirit and sense of community in helping to affect positive change for the country and Saugerties.
Asked if she could change one thing about Saugerties, she replied:
“We should work to improve the school system through helping to improve the relationship between the School Board and the teacher’s union. I also feel that there is a negative attitude toward teachers and our schools in the community. I’d like to see people examine their attitudes and change them.”
If he exists, what would you like St. Peter to say to you as you get to the Pearly Gates?
“Welcome, you have friends and family waiting for you here.”