A Final Goodbye

A Celebration of Life in honor of Sallie P. Sullivan was held on Saturday, March 16, 2024 prior to the opening of the Tallahassee Hunting Retriever Club Spring Hunt Test at Borderline Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia.

Over 100 family, friends and handlers came before dawn to celebrate the life of a Master National icon. Tables were filled with pictures of Sallie, along with flowers beautifully arranged by Jeannie Ferguson featuring Sallie’s favorites. What started as a rainy day cleared just in time as the sun rose and the guests were treated to breakfast. It was as though you could hear Sallie saying, “It never rains at Borderline.”

THRC President Sam Ferguson welcomed everyone and shared a few stories about his life-long relationship Sallie. Sallie was a founding member of the THRC. He said you always knew where you stood with her. She was one of a kind. There will never be another. Sam also thanked Wiregrass Hunting Retriever Club, Gloria and Fred Nusbickel who helped and dedicated their Spring Test to her.

Sam introduced Sallie’s son Tim Sullivan, who welcomed everyone and talked about how much the Hunt Test Community meant to his mother. 

He went on to say “Sallie was competitive, tough, she was focused and boy did she work hard, unlike anyone he has known.” He said some folks also thought she was “so sweet,” which puzzled him.  He described a funny experience he and his sister Kate had after Sallie’s passing. They were in an elevator with an assistant to Sallie’s attorney.  She turned to them and said how very sorry she was to hear of Sallie’s death. “She was so sweet.” Kate and Tim both laughed—and it was obvious to those present at the Celebration that they love and appreciated that comment too.

Sallie’s daughter Kate Scovil spoke next with a poignant story. Kate went to visit Sallie last summer in Wisconsin. Sallie’s oldest dog Imp had been ill and wasn’t doing well. When Kate arrived, she was amazed to see a ‘revitalized’ Imp.  Kate asked what did you do to her? The answer was simple, said professional trainer Jill Volsch, we shot her a flyer!

That made Kate think what was Sallie’s flyer? It was obvious. Sallie was focused on the 2023 Master National that would be held in October in Thomasville, Georgia.  And although Sallie was unable to run her dogs, she was able to watch her girls compete every day. A final accomplishment indeed.

Ray Shanks, professional trainer and longtime friend of Sallie’s spoke next. Ray talked about what Miss Sallie meant to him and how watching her over the years was an inspiration to him. He was very emotional as he said he was always in awe of Miss Sallie and her dedication to the sport.

Glenn and Becky Rodgers, Becky Malphus and Melissa Shanks dedicated the song, I’ll Fly Away, to Sallie as a duck flyer was released to celebrate a woman who was larger than life to most of us. Tears were shed as we bid farewell to one very special lady. Fond memories and funny stories will remain in our hearts forever.

Mia DiBenedetto

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