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Sally Clark Gorton

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Sally Clark Gorton Obituary
Sally Clark Gorton

July 21, 1932 ~ July 20, 2013

Sally Clark Gorton, 80, passed away on July 20, 2013, in her home in Clyde Hill, WA, surrounded by the love of family and friends. Sally was an accomplished woman whose career spanned journalism, public service, and importantly, wife, mother and grandmother.

Her ambitious journalism career began as a junior in high school when Sally found herself running her hometown's weekly newspaper, the Selah Valley Optimist, after the owner was elected county commissioner. She wrote for the Yakima Daily Republic throughout college, and graduated from the University of Washington in 1954 with a degree in journalism.

She went to work for the Seattle Times in 1955. As a reporter, her job required her to interview the wives of many well-known politicians, giving her insight into the life that lay ahead. She was described as a young professional as "very smart, very attractive, with a pert pageboy and a confident air."

She met Thomas Slade Gorton III (Slade) at a meet-and-greet held by mutual friends at a house in Leschi. Their courtship included a regular pattern of movies on Friday nights, followed by skiing on Sundays.

They were married on June 28, 1958. After a honeymoon in California, they returned to Seattle and door belled together for Slade's first campaign the night they got home. In November, Slade was elected to the state House of Representatives.

During the 1959 legislative session, they shared a rental house down the street from the Capitol with Joel Pritchard, Dan Evans and Chuck Moriarity. Sally was expecting their first child. She became a "den mother" to the young politicians, and said she was "treated like a queen bee." It was a time she and Slade remember fondly.

Their first child, Tod, was born in 1959. Sarah followed in 1960, and Becky in 1962. Sally enjoyed her years as a young mother and continued to find ways of using her journalism skills. She launched the first student newspaper at her children's school, and as a member of the Seattle Symphony Women's Committee, she was the editor of their newsletter, "Symphanotes."

The family set off on the adventure of a lifetime in June 1973, becoming the first family to bicycle across the country, from Olympia, WA to Gloucester, MA. Sally organized the details, including finding matching yellow and orange jackets with reflector tape for the entire crew. They covered 3,328 miles in 7 days, averaging 80 miles a day. Sally celebrated her 40th birthday the day before they rode into Gloucester.

Her civic contributions were numerous. She held leadership positions with the Olympia YWCA, Patrons of South Sound Cultural Activities, the Governor's Mansion Foundation, the Governor's Festival of the Arts, the Olympia area Delta Delta Delta alumni chapter, the March of Dimes, the Cancer Fund Drive, the Northwest Girls' Choir, and the Seattle Aquarium.

When Slade's election to the United States Senate took them to Washington, D.C. in 1980, Sally's public service included work with the Senate Wives (a Red Cross unit), International Neighbors Club #1, the Republican Women's Federal Forum, and the 97th Congressional Wives. She was honored to chair their First Lady's Luncheon for Barbara Bush.

During their time in Washington, D.C., Sally reprised her role as "den mother" to Slade's Senate staff, opening her home and her heart to the dozens of young people Slade recruited during his three terms in the U.S. Senate.

In 1995, Slade and Sally moved from their home in Magnolia to Clyde Hill to be closer to their seven grandchildren. Sally provided tremendous support to her two daughters as they raised their children, and she took great pride in their academic and athletic pursuits.

In his 2011 biography of Slade, John Hughes dedicated the book to Sally to honor the important role she played helping Slade succeed in high-profile, stressful and very public roles. When faced with challenges, she rose to the occasion and always enjoyed whatever adventure it brought. Her superb political savvy, her writer's eye for detail and her shared love of Washington State were invaluable to Slade throughout his career.

Sally is survived by her husband of 55 years, United States Senator Slade Gorton; her three children, Thomas Gorton, Sarah Gorton Nortz (Joseph Nortz), and Rebecca Gorton; and her seven grandchildren, Rebecca Nortz, John Nortz, Samuel Nortz, Daniel Nortz, Katherine Jack, Tucker Jack and William Jack.

Services will be held Friday, July 26 at 4:00 p.m. at St. Thomas Episcopal Church at 8300 NE 12th Street, Medina, WA.

A scholarship fund has been created in Sally's honor. Contributions can be made to: Gorton Center Global Leaders Scholarship Fund, 1414 NE 42nd St., Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98105.

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Published in The Seattle Times from July 23 to July 24, 2013
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