I last saw Sally three weeks ago today. It was a crisp, clear day, like today. I had traveled up from Connecticut with a heavy heart because I knew she was in the last stages of a terminal illness. But I found Sally looking so good, feeling so good; she was spirited and still completely engaged with the world. In fact, we even went on line together and for an hour or so researched images connected to a recent controversy. But mainly we talked. She took me on a tour of the art she and Maury had collected over the years. She was filled with stories about how each piece had come to them, what good times they had had putting the collection together and how much pleasure it brought her now.
As we visited, she took a half dozen phone calls, making arrangements to meet people, dispensing advice and opinion. In their wonderful, sunny apartment, with Maury and Michael coming and going to take care of things, the two of us talked the afternoon away just like old times. As always, her easy laughter punctuated the conversation. As always, she cheered my mood. She was Sally Fox.
The name, Sally Fox, is so right for her. It is a plucky name, to-the-point, lilting, up-beat—just like the Sally we knew and we loved.
I met Sally in 1970 when she came to Houghton Mifflin to do freelance picture research. That was the first I saw of her marvelous work. For all of us in publishing, it goes without saying that Sally was simply the best at what she did; she was without peer. She had an unfailing eye for quality. She could read the meaning of a work of art and see its multiple connections. Her gift was comparable to perfect pitch in the music world. Never a wrong note.
And she brought a professionalism to the undertaking that over the years has lifted all of us who have taken careers as art editors or picture researchers. She set the standard.
But at the same time that she was entirely professional, she was also entirely human, deeply humane. It seemed that everyone who worked with Sally also became her friend. Sally had a sort of familiar companionship with the world at large.
And, of course, she was entirely generous with her expertise. She brought many people into the field and shepherded their careers. And she was equally open and generous with those whom she might have seen as competitors. She was earnestly and joyously engaged in her work, and she wanted us all to come along and join in. She had a big heart and an unbounded sense of possibilities that made life seem rich and good. That was her spirit.