Sally Carol (McComas) Mueller sloughed off the earthly bonds of pain and infirmity that had held her so cruelly for these last several years and slipped into the realm of the stars at 11:10 pm on October 16, 2021 at The Arbors of Fairlawn. As much as she wanted to have died at home surrounded by her family, in the end, it was just not possible. After two excruciating weeks that no pain medication could touch, she was finally granted an hour of ease before slipping away with her hospice nurse and an aide at her side. She would tell you that we should not be sad for her – that she has had a wonderful life and been so very lucky – she has loved and been loved – she has wonderful children and grandchildren of whom she is so very proud – she has enjoyed the benefits of education and travel, a mother who was an amazing role model, a big brother who looked out for her, and a father who loved her.
Sally was born to James R. and Evelyn L. (Swan) McComas on her Grandfather Swan’s farm just west of Apple Creek, Ohio on May 16, 1933. Her two older brothers, Harrold (“Mac”) and Stan, were at the circus with an aunt when she burst on the scene. All have predeceased her. The family of five lived on the multi-generational farm during the height of The Depression until big brother, Mac, was ready to attend high school at which time they moved into Apple Creek proper. When Mac was ready to attend Wooster College they moved into Wooster. Sally was nine years Mac’s junior, so her formative years were spent attending Wooster’s Bowman Street School and Wooster High School, graduating in 1951. She then began at The College of Wooster as a theater major. In her spare time, she majored in playing bridge with her girlfriends (aka “The Amazons”) at The Shack.
While in high school, Sally met and fell head over heels for a very handsome guy with a devilish grin, John N. Mueller of Burbank, Ohio. They were engaged in 1953 and Sally left college to work to earn money for “their future”. The couple married on June 13, 1954. As A1C Mueller was stationed at Fort Belvoir near Washington DC, they made their first home together in a studio apartment in Arlington, VA. After the USAF, they returned to Ohio, moving to Akron, so John could use his GI Bill to attend the Akron Art Institute in pursuit of a BFA. Two children then followed five years apart, Susan and Jay, thus making Sally’s life complete as “all she ever wanted to be was a wife and mother.”
In truth, Sally was a stay-at-home-Mom who rarely stayed home. You would find her at her kids’ school selling Savings Bond Stamps, acting as room mother, volunteering as a Girl Scout Leader, serving as PTA President, attending every concert or play or sporting event her kids were involved in. She was a Band Booster, a car-pool driver, a chaperone. Her kids’ friends mattered to her and they became “her kids,” too.
Sally proudly also served both her church and her community. As a lifelong Methodist, she had the family join Christ Methodist Church in 1958 and she took her vows very seriously: “to support it with her prayers, her presence, her gifts, and her service.” Through her 53 years of membership, she was involved in Child Study Club and the Home Builders Class (later called The Builders Class) where she met many dear and lifelong friends. She took her turn teaching Sunday School (both children and adults), helped with Vacation Bible School, and served on many committees including Staff-Parish Relations. As much as she served the church and demanded weekly family attendance, she also willingly and openly struggled with her faith; unsure about God and Jesus, she did believe strongly that her life was touched by Grace.
As a lifelong Democrat, she worked hard campaigning for the candidates of her choice, helping with voter registration, and taking her turn as a poll worker on Election Day. She was happy to drive folks to the polls and made innumerable get-out-the-vote phone calls. She was particularly proud of the work she did with a community organization called West Side Neighbors that helped break red-lining in housing in the Akron area. All of her life she championed rights of workers, women, persons of color, and the LGBTQ+ community. She believed in being an educated and active citizen and tried to instill those values in family, friends, and sometimes perfect strangers. In her retirement she volunteered to read weekly for the blind on radio station WEYE and to help staff the information desk in the Summit Metro Parks F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm.
Sally was a huge supporter of both the performing and visual arts. She did not consider herself “artistic”; she’d say, “My husband is the artist!” Instead, she called herself “the world’s best appreciator.” And she was. She believed in buying local, original art and supporting local theater. She loved jazz, and modern art, and all kinds of music, even discovering late in life that she really enjoyed opera performances in the “The Met: Live!” series shown in theaters. She believed in showing up to support art, and artists, and took great delight in being invited to “hang” with her kids in places where new music was being made.
Sally considered herself a “lifelong learner” – “it is a good day if you learn something new!” – she would say, but most of us knew her as a teacher. After Jay was in school full time, she went back to college at Akron U and finished her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, graduating Cum Laude in spite of the D’s in Latin she had to drag behind her from her Wooster College days. Later, she also earned a Masters’ degree in Education. From January, 1972 until her retirement 28 years later, she taught in the Springfield Twp. Local Schools, first at Milroy and then at Schrop. Her subjects were 5th and 6th grade mathematics and literature/reading. An early adopter of technology, she introduced the first computer to her classroom in 1982 followed by an Apple IIc in 1985. She dearly loved her team of teaching cohorts and served for a time on the contract negotiating team for her union with whom she had a great deal of fun.
After husband John, her deepest love, died in 1980, Sally reinvented herself as a completely independent woman; she joined a singles bridge club in Kent and The Museum Contemporaries of the Akron Art Museum, she made new friends, she traveled (travel is educational, you know) and, in retirement, helped found a Book Club at her church that continues to this day. She is remembered by many for her iconic “Sally Red” glasses that matched her lipstick, her done nails, and her red cane. If you ever frequented The Amber Pub or early Ken Stewart’s, you probably knew her – it was her Thursday routine.
At the age of 88 many have preceded her in death: her beloved John, her parents, her brother Harrold and his wife (sister of the heart) Hazelyn McComas, brother Stanley McComas, her dear daughter-in-law, Jennifer Chin, and many friends and family too numerous to name.
Family was everything to her and, much to her delight, Sally became a grandmother seven times over. Left to celebrate her amazing courage, strength, patience, positivity, and love for life are her children: Jay & Julia (Herdina) Mueller and Susan & Arthur Baranoff & Jane Hull; her grandchildren, Sarah Baranoff-Chin, Stefan & Lori Baranoff, John J. Mueller, Mary Mueller (Grant Wilkie), Margaret (Mueller) & Adam Reed, Mark Mueller, and Emmaline Mueller.
She will be remembered fondly by her Swan Cousins, her niece, three nephews, several great-nieces and great-nephews, her partner in travel and trouble, Marian Steinert, and many, many friends, colleagues, and classmates. She also leaves three half-sisters by her father’s second marriage, Charlotte Rollie, Barbara Greathoue and Nancy Jobe.
Her last days were not easy, but they were made more bearable by the devoted care of her daily helpers Melissa and Tera to whom the family is ever grateful, her evening “rotation” of Nikki, Marquita, Nola, and Sa’Maiya, her hospice staff led by Kathie, and her hospice nurse, Christine, who was with her at the end.
When asked how she wanted to be remembered, she offered us this:
“I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze
than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow,
than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist…” ~ Jack London
Sally was cremated and a Memorial Gathering was held on November 27, 2021 at Jilly's Music Room in Akron, Ohio. A link to the Zoom recording of the Memorial Service, as well as the videos shown during the reception that followed, can be enjoyed here:
Remember her when you wear "Sally Red". Read a little every day.
In lieu of flowers, contributions to UMCOR, The Akron Art Museum, your local NPR station, or The Children & Teachers Foundation of the Chicago Teachers Union are humbly requested. -- (links below)
There are multiple stars in your crown, Sally. Well done, good and faithful servant. From dust you have come and to dust you shall return. May your name be written in the stars and your dust become stardust. §
Charity Links for online publication:
The Akron Art Museum https://akronartmuseum.org/join-give-2/
Your local NPR station or WKSU https://donate.wksu.org/
The Children & Teachers Foundation of the Chicago Teachers Union
To send flowers to Sally's family, please visit our floral store.