Sally Elizabeth Merrill Sutcliffe

June 5, 2007.  It’s 5:45 a.m. a red sun pierces the hedgerow of black locust blossoms, a dawn chorus of birds--wrens, robins, bluebirds and more—announce a new day.  Life is complete except that Sally Elizabeth Merrill Sutcliffe is not with us in person to celebrate this dawn.  Sally died last weekend, the result of a debilitating auto immune disease.

Sally was a proud New Englander from Hopkinton, NH.  Her parents, Malcolm and June Merrill, raised Sally, her two sisters (Sandy and Susan) and brother (Brian) to be responsible, caring, and giving world citizens.  Sal was immensely proud of her New England heritage and parentage, only leaving New Hampshire to settle into Trumansburg, NY because of her love for Scott Sutcliffe, a friend and kindred spirit she met as a student at the University of New Hampshire.  Sal and Scott embraced their destiny of marriage on their first occasion of prolonged personal conversation, a June midnight in 1984 when they borrowed a canoe and plied the moonlit waters of Squam Lake.  She was a perfect bow paddler, strong and steady, and he the same in the stern—the canoe slid forward, straight and powerful for 22 years, with barely a ripple.

In short order, they married, accepted jobs at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, bought a treasure of a farm in Trumansburg, and commenced a life together; based on mutual respect, trust, camaraderie, love, shared values, hard work, birding, and an intense appreciation of life and friends.   Jennie Merrill was born in 1988 and Lee Andrew in 1992.  They, too, are considerate world citizens, imbued with an appreciation of family, of life, of strong friendships. The Sutcliffe dogs (Kate and Fly), their chickens, and their home farm is the center of the Sutcliffe’s universe.  But the world is theirs for travel, for cultural enlightenment, for learning, and for paddling ever-forward as a family united in mutual respect and love. 

Sally’s gone, but in her wake everywhere; at the Lab of O, the Audubon Society of New Hampshire, the Ulysses Philomathic Library, the TBurg Methodist Church, the TBurg Central Schools, in Hopkinton, NH; she leaves behind calm waters of admiration. 

In honor of Sally, we’ll celebrate her life on Saturday, June 9 in a get together of prayer, thanksgiving, and fellowship at the Sutcliffe’s farm, 6300 Waterburg Rd., 11:00 a.m.  In the tradition of Sutcliffe barn festivities, the celebration will be followed by a dish-to-pass luncheon (bring your favorite cuisine), walks through the Sutcliffe gardens, fields, woodlot, swimming the creek or pond, and relaxed conversation. A second celebration, more convenient for Cornell friends, will be held at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology later in the summer.

In honor of Sally, please take a walk, go birding, plant a tree, pull a weed, buy a book for yourself or your favorite library.  Do these things for Sally, she will be appreciative beyond measure.

In closing, here’s a short passage by Walt Whitman inscribed on Sal’s bow paddle.  The paddle and words, professed by Scott in marriage and lived out in their life, led Sally, Scott, Jennie, and Lee through a remarkable journey of life.

Camerado, I give you my hands.

I give you my love more precious than money,

I give you myself before preaching the Law;

Will you give me yourself? 

Will you come travel with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?