Sarah (Sally) Watson Gilliatt died peacefully on January 9, 2021 in Hancock, NH at the age of 80. She leaves her loving husband, James (Jim) E. Gilliatt, devoted daughters Katharine (Kate) H. Gilliatt of Little Compton, RI and Sarah Laeng-Gilliatt, and beloved grandson, Julian Laeng, of Hancock, NH, and two sisters: Barbara H. Watson of Laguna Woods, CA and Joan W. McCabe of Arlington, VA, as well as several nieces and nephews.
Sally was born in Boston to her English mother, Joan Harrison Watson, and her American father, Paul Barron Watson. They lived in Milton, MA. In 1958, she graduated from Beaver Country Day School. Sally studied Early Child Development at Briarcliff College, where she received an Associate’s degree. She then taught for a couple years as an Assistant Nursery Teacher at Buckingham School in Cambridge, MA. Having met her husband-to-be, Jim, at age 15 at a dance, she married him in 1960 in Peterborough, NH. This past August they celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary while living in the house next door to the one where they had had their wedding reception.
Starting their family in Arlington, MA, they soon moved to Hingham on the South Shore. There Sally took her children on many adventures, exposing them to all sorts of things, from getting water from the local spring to collecting tadpoles to observe as they grew into, who knew it—frogs! Then, in 1977, they moved to Concord, Massachusetts.
Besides being a mother, devoted to her children as well as her extended family, she always had a wide circle of friends. And a friend she was! She is so fondly remembered by many for her profound kindness, by those who were comforted when troubled, cared for when not well, laughed with when amused, and always welcomed by her warmth.
When both of her children were soon to leave the nest, Sally was clear in what she wanted to do. Motivated by a strong belief in human potential as well as a desire to nurture parents to find their own inner resources, knowledge, and strengths in challenging times, she embarked on graduate work. She designed for herself a program with considerable independent study that allowed her to combine her different areas of interest: premature babies, early intervention with families with children-at-risk, humanistic psychology, and support groups for parents. Upon graduating from Lesley College with an M.A., she worked at Head Start in Lowell, MA. and then at the Early Intervention Program in Nashua, NH, as well as doing week-long intensive program reviews several times a year for Head Start.
Indeed, Sally was a woman who cared deeply about people and our world. Throughout her life, she often volunteered for several organizations such as Open Table in Maynard, MA, conservation and peace groups, and for the Antiquarian Museum in Concord, MA. Drawing on her love of people, and providing warm and welcoming environments for them, she and Jim ran a bed and breakfast out of their home, Ridge House in historic Concord.
Sally and Jim retired to Little Compton, RI, after Sally had spent summers since being a young girl at her family home, “Tallow Tree Cottage.” Reveling in the beauty of Little Compton every day, she continued her life-long interests of being with family and friends, reading, gardening, knitting, and being with her beloved Maine Coon cats. She loved summer evenings camping on their boat in the harbor, going to Briggs Beach, and to the Commons Lunch for Johnny Cakes. She was a regular and devoted member of the Peace Alliance, and could often be found on the Commons before Church on Sundays. She and Jim spent winter months in Sebastian, FL in their later years, where they spent simple days enjoying each other and the warmth.
Sally was a deeply positive person, always seeing the best of situations and people, taking profound joy in the simplest aspects of life, and imbued with deep gratitude for all that life brought her. She knew how to enjoy herself and took so much pleasure in life, to the very end.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to The United Congregational Church of Little Compton (PO Box 506, Little Compton, RI 02837, 401-635-8472, https://www.ucclittlecompton.org/), or to the Fred Rogers Center (330 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA, 15650-2690, 724-805-2750, https://www.fredrogerscenter.org/about-the-center, or to Beaver Country Day School, 791 Hammond Street, Chesnut Hill, MA, 02467, 617-738-2700, https://bcdschool.org).