Sally Bolster

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Sally McCarthy Bolster, who spent most of her life in Norwalk, Connecticut, died in San Antonio, Texas on August 16, 2013. She was 84. Born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, and educated at Simmons College in Boston, MA, Sally was initially intrigued with the world of fashion. She modeled as a young woman at G. Fox and Company, in Hartford, and worked as a buyer for Bloomingdale's. Sally then moved to Norwalk with her husband, Bill, in 1956. A dedicated community servant, activist, and elected official, Sally was an indefatigable woman who left her mark by helping other people. Following service on the Norwalk School Building Committee, during which she helped build 11 public schools, Sally was elected to the Norwalk City Council in 1967. She served for 8 years, including a term as President of the City Council, after which the state Republican Party nominated her to run for Secretary of State in Connecticut. She then served for twelve years as the Assistant for Community Affairs for Connecticut Congressman Stewart B. McKinney, and was especially proud of her work to create low-income public housing and to establish the McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Long Island Sound. Later Sally campaigned successfully for a seat in the Connecticut General Assembly, where she served several terms. Service as an elected official was only part of a much richer career. An activist's activist, Sally served on the boards of directors of many institutions. She was the first woman director of a savings and loan association in Connecticut, but she was more proud of her work on behalf of the Human Services Council of Mid-Fairfield County; the Norwalk Emergency Shelter; the Mutual Housing Association of Southwest Connecticut; the Community Economic Development Corporation of Norwalk; the Mid-Fairfield Substance Abuse Coalition; and the Norwalk Senior Center, among others. She understood housing law, project management, and fund-raising, and she was especially adept at working with multiple constituencies and various stakeholders. Among her signature projects were oversight of the construction of a 44-room unit to accommodate the working poor. She was also instrumental in bringing together the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the League of Women Voters to promote the idea of a community college in Norwalk, opening the possibilities of higher education to many people. Sally was smart, fair, and principled, and she took seriously the injunction of her late father to "make the world a better place." In light of her extensive community service, Sally was honored to carry the Olympic torch as it crossed our nation in 1996. When she and her husband decided to retire to San Antonio, friends in Connecticut quipped that she would soon be organizing Bexar County. In San Antonio Sally continued her affiliation with the AAUW and the League of Women Voters, and served on the Northeast Independent School District's Citizen's Bond Advisory Committee. She also began to teach adult education classes at ALIR (Adult Learning in Retirement), which she considered the "icing on the cake" of her community service. A Republican for decades (including having been a delegate to nominate Ronald Reagan), Sally became a Democrat in Texas and headed the Northeast Bexar County Democrats. Throughout her long and distinguished career Sally was extraordinarily proud of her family. As a young mother involved in politics she always left a regular, home-cooked meal for her husband and sons, and she baked wonderful pies and Swedish Christmas cookies year-round. She and her husband had several boats in which they cruised on the coast of New England. They also traveled extensively, including a trip to the village in Sweden from which her mother had emigrated. Sally encouraged her sons to pursue their dreams, which they did. She and her husband celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary three weeks before she passed, in the presence of their sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. Sally was always a fighter. A cancer survivor from 40 years ago, she faced every challenge with determination and dignity. Sally was the daughter of the late Charles J. McCarthy and Ella Olson McCarthy. She was predeceased by her brother, Charles J. McCarthy, Jr. Sally is survived by her husband Bill, her sons Jeffrey, of Portsmouth, NH; David, of San Antonio, TX; and Peter, of Baltimore, MD; her daughters-in-law Molly, Mary Jo, and Julie; and her grandchildren, Ellie, Carl, Kenny, Liam, and Maisie.

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In lieu of flowers, contributions to the memory of Sally M. Bolster may be sent to the League of Women Voters.

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Published in Express-News on Aug. 19, 2013
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