Gardening 06

Sally J. Dillon

March 7, 1948 ~ September 18, 2020 (age 72)

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Sally Jeannine Ganzel VanderRoest Chapman Dillon was born on March 7, 1948 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  She spent two thirds of her life in Marin County, California, and was married for more than half her life to her husband, Jack., who still lives in their home in San Anselmo.

Sally was born to Buck and Mary Ganzel along with her older brother, Bob, and three older sisters, Mary Lee, Carol, and Kathy.  When her mother remarried, Jim VanderRoest provided the family with a home (usually on a lake, to Sally’s delight) and Mary gave the girls the solid moral foundation and practical opinions that served all of them so well through life.

In college, Sally married Jim Chapman and, when he finished his master’s degree, moved with him to Marin County, California.  She convinced her friends, Sharon and Mike Hewitt, to follow her footsteps and then followed their footsteps to Alaska after separating from Jim.  Two years later, Sally returned to Marin, lived in a charming Tiburon in-law apartment with a view of Raccoon Straights, and took the ferry into San Francisco to work every day.

Sally met Jack Dillon on the Tiburon Ferry.  Their circle of friends worked in the City and socialized on the weekends.   After a couple of years becoming best friends, Sally and Jack realized the strength of their affection for each other and married in August 1982.  Their partnership was to last the rest of her life.

A professional working couple, Sally and Jack had careers in the nascent computer industry.  Sally was a programmer and analyst for several San Francisco firms and always made sure that she and Jack lived close to a ferry terminal on the Marin side and was in walking distance to her office on the City side. When she was offered an early retirement package, she seized the opportunity to pour her energy into a home renovation she had started with Jack, building a fabulous garden and completing the interior design of a beautiful home in San Anselmo.

Sally was a lifelong learner and dove into subjects of personal interest with a passion.  Art, history, geology, anthropology, and literature captured her focus at various times.  Her class notes read like reference books; her library is extensive and carefully chosen; and her creations continue to reflect her mastery of a wide range of skills.

She was a fan of British murder mysteries, science fiction, and romantic novels.  She and Jack could often be found in the back booth at Comforts having lunch and reading their books for hours.  If Sally really loved a book she would quote from it so extensively that Jack would be able to summarize the book without reading it.

And there was no more devoted kitty mom than Sally.  A succession of adored felines graced her life and thrived with her care and protection.  Samantha, Mattie, Yoda, Meteor, Cleo, and Oscar gave and received an enormous amount of love.

When Jack retired 5 years after her, they sold the renovated house and downsized back to the cottage they had originally bought 25 years earlier.  Again, Sally’s green thumb produced a garden that was the envy of the neighborhood.  Every year, Sally would produce more Meyer lemons and heirloom tomatoes than her small family could consume or freeze and the neighbors were the beneficiaries.

Sally was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013.  She fought the disease for seven years with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.  Eventually there were no further treatment options and the cancer spread quickly.  But up until the end, as she had been her entire life, Sally was clear eyed, rational, and fact driven.  She calmly evaluated her options and made the decisions that were best for her and her family. 

She left her life on her own terms, surrounded by family and friends, and passed away peacefully in the arms of her husband on September 18, 2020.

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