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Sallie Ruth Holcomb was born on February 26,1926 in Saginaw, Michigan one of four children born to Ruth Ferguson and William Holcomb. She grew up on a truck farm in the Kochville area. As a child, she had pneumonia and missed a year of school. Her sisters fondly remember that she was so weak that she had to go to school in a small carriage pulled by a pony. As she grew older, in the summers she helped on the farm, killed chickens for Sunday dinner, tied up the cauliflower to keep it white and mulched and harvested the asparagus. During the years of World War II she ran a crew of high school boys who worked on the farm.
After finishing Arthur Hill High School, Sallie attended Albion college, graduating in 1947. Whilst there she met Joseph James Panella (Joe), also working on his degree, bussing tables in her dorm as his student job. After graduating as Phi Beta Kappa, Sallie moved to Lansing, Michigan where she worked as a bacteriologist. Joe graduated the next year and on January 31st, 1948 they were married in Saginaw.
Joe got a job as a teacher and coach at Midland High School, Michigan, and they moved there in 19498 where 5 of their 6 children were born. Joe left teaching to take a job with Dow Chemical in 1959, and they moved to Birmingham, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. This is where their 6th child was born, and they lived for the next 11 years. During those years, Sallie was a full time mother.
Her common sense and her ability to deal calmly with emergencies was recognised throughout their neighborhood. Joe was often away for work but she ran things smoothly and happily, and the house was full, not only of children but pets - a dog, a cat, lizards, snakes and turtles. When her children were a bit older she broadened her horizons and taught Chemistry and the local high school. The family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1970.
Sallie loved travelling and as the children got older, holidays moved beyond Michigan to an annual winter trip to Florida. In those days that involved a 2 day road trip with 5 kids in a car. And although she and Joe were able to get weekends away, she didn’t really have a chance to see the world until Joe’s job took them to Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1976. Just one of their children was still at home to move with them and Sallie spent a very happy couple of years there.
She and Joe lived in Virginia and Ohio for several years before retiring to Sun City West in Arizona in 1987. Her family was always important to her and she was able to indulge her love of travel visiting her children and grandchildren who lived in Hong Kong, Germany, the UK and the Philippines during her retirement.
Sallie had a keen intelligence and didn’t suffer fools gladly. She was an avid bridge player all of her life and was always a member of a local bridge club (or two). She did the crossword puzzle every day of her life. She never took her good fortune for granted and was eager to give back. She was involved in a local tutoring scheme for less able students in Grand Rapids and volunteered at a charity store to help the indigent in Toledo.
Sallie moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2018 to be near to her son and died peacefully aged 95 in March of 2021. She is survived by 4 of her 6 children and 7 grandchildren.
Donations to the Special Olympics which was a cause dear to Sallie’s heart would be appreciated.