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Sally Saltonstall Willis
December 12, 2022


Willis, Sally Saltonstall died peacefully surrounded by her family at home on Charlescote Farm on December 12, 2022.

Sally was born in Boston on August 29, 1940 and spent her childhood and most of her adult life where she first, and always, felt joy – Charlescote Farm in Sherborn, Massachusetts.

She is survived by her husband of 50 years, Dudley Willis; four children and their spouses: Dudley, Jr. and Heather Willis, Christopher and Pamela Willis, David and Kristyn Willis, and Deborah and Peter Dowling; ten grandchildren: Duds, Westy, and Sunny Willis; Gussie and Roxy Willis; Annabelle, Sydney, and Austen Willis; and George and Sally Dowling; and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Richard Saltonstall and Mary Bowditch Rogers Saltonstall, and her two siblings, Mary Bowditch Saltonstall Pease and Richard Saltonstall.

Sally was blessed with a generous and open spirit which she nurtured and happily shared her entire life. For Sally, that spirit was shown in the joy she experienced among family, friends, animals (especially Clumber Spaniels), nature, and outdoor activities, all of which she found in abundance on Charlescote Farm. Like her father, she felt most at ease and was truly in her element on the Farm where family and friends gathered to celebrate life by living it to the fullest in the embrace of the Upper Charles River Valley and its extraordinary beauty.

Charlescote Farm was Sally’s classroom and where she learned the most important life lessons. She loved helping her father with the dairy herd and horses and her mother with the gardens and dogs. She enjoyed playing outdoors and exploring the Farm and the Charles River with her brother. She loved introducing her four children and ten grandchildren to the joys of life on Charlescote Farm.

Her formal education was at Charles River School in Dover, MA, Chatham Hall in Chatham, VA, and Bradford College in Haverhill, MA. She subsequently honed her administrative skills at Katharine Gibbs College in Boston.

Sally was exposed to politics from an early age as her uncle Leverett Saltonstall was Governor of Massachusetts and later served in the United States Senate for 22 years during her youth. In early 1960, just after college, Sally worked to get Henry Cabot Lodge elected as a write-in candidate for President on the New Hampshire Republican primary ballot. Lodge withdrew from consideration but was chosen by candidate Richard Nixon as his Vice Presidential running mate at the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago.

Sally was appointed to serve as a Page at that convention, and her life in politics took an unexpected turn. There she met Edward Brooke, who had twice run unsuccessfully for the Massachusetts legislature and was then running for Massachusetts Secretary of State. Sally was impressed by Mr. Brooke’s honesty and drive and knew he had a bright future in politics.

She promptly joined the Brooke campaign staff in his unsuccessful 1960 run for state-wide office but discovered a new joy in campaign organizing and promoting candidates whose positions and personalities resonated with her. She worked on Brooke’s successful campaign for Massachusetts Attorney General in 1962. Having become a vocal advocate for Brooke, she addressed the 1966 Massachusetts Republican Convention to second Brooke’s nomination as the Republican candidate for United States Senate. Later that year, Sally accepted Senator-elect Brooke’s invitation to join his staff in Washington D.C. and became a trusted aide and adviser who was well-liked and respected by other Senators and their staffs alike.

Sally also found joy in that political work and settled in Washington for eight years. In June 1972, Sally and Dudley were married on Charlescote Farm and their first child, Dudley, Jr., was born in the fall of 1973. Notwithstanding her significant success and stature in the political world, Sally’s new priorities were to return to the Farm with her husband Dudley to raise their children, care for her aging parents, get her fingers in the dirt again, and enjoy life to its fullest.

For Sally that enjoyment of life included participating and watching athletics of all kinds. She was an avid tennis player and a regular spectator and cheerleader at her children’s athletic events from youth sports to college competitions. Her true passion, however, was the Boston Red Sox. She became and remained an ardent fan throughout the “Curse of the Bambino” era and was particularly pleased when the “curse” was broken in 2004. She loved tuning in to listen to the Red Sox games nightly on her trusty transistor radio and enjoyed many adventures to Fenway Park.

As her children aged out of competitive sports, Sally never ceased being their biggest fan in whatever endeavor they undertook. She supported their various business enterprises and gladly volunteered to help them in any way needed, especially giving time to her 10 grandchildren whenever and wherever possible. Always happier in her old jeans, boots and barn coat than in a cocktail dress, Sally discovered the extraordinary in all the ordinary tasks of life and found her bliss among her family and the animals, chores, and people, whether old friends or new acquaintances, on Charlescote Farm.

The Willis family extend their heartfelt thanks to Sally’s caretakers, friends, and extended family members for their loving and unwavering support during Sally’s final illness. To a person, they provided great comfort to Sally and were a source of much needed assistance and emotional strength for Dudley and the Willis children.

Funeral and burial will be private. A memorial gathering for family and friends will be at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Sally’s memory to the Sherborn Library, 4 Sanger Street, Sherborn, MA 01770 or Charles River School, 6 Old Meadow Road, Dover, MA 02030.

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George F. Doherty & Sons Funeral Homes
477 Washington Street
Wellesley, MA 02482