Sari Nebergall Newell (Sally), a warm and caring mother, grandmother, wife and friend whose enthusiastic zest for living a fearless life astounded all who knew her, passed away peacefully at her Alpharetta, Ga., home on August 19 at the age of 82.
Sally was born in Montclair, N.J., on October 24, 1937. She was a graduate of Marymount College, Washington, DC. She lived in New Jersey and California before moving with her parents to Delaware, where she met Sam Newell at a Catholic Singles Group, where Sam was president. She spotted him across the room and liked his pressed khakis, crew neck sweater and crew cut. They married in May 1961. They moved to Greensboro, N.C., in 1972 where they made their home, raised their family and became a vital part of that community until they moved to Atlanta in 2008.
Sally’s primary goal in life was to be a mother, and she was an incredible one. She cherished her children, in-laws and her grandchildren. Family was everything to her. Her favorite event each year was the family’s summer beach trip. Like Sam, she would use this time to connect individually with her grandchildren. During these beach trips, she picked her wardrobe carefully for that week and looked glamorous every evening for dinner. She also took each grandchild on a special “Nanny Memory Trip” somewhere that catered to their interests.
Sally had many talents that she generously shared with friends and family, with the most precious being the gift of time. She loved knitting and was making afghans for each grandchild to be given to them as a special marital present. She also was an accomplished sewer. She was an adopted mother to many and kept up with them on Facebook. She was extremely involved in all her children’s activities and drove them throughout the southeast to swim meets, soccer tournaments and tennis matches. She continued to do so for her grandchildren. There was nothing she liked better than when her family home was full of kids. Sally’s beloved dog, Sandy, was her constant companion following Sam’s death in 2015.
Sally was a devout Catholic. She prayed daily and instilled in her family the importance of living their faith. She was a member at St. Brigid Catholic Church in Atlanta at the time of her death. She and Sam were founding members of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Greensboro, where they met many friends who later became family.
Sally loved a gin and tonic in warm weather and a bourbon and water in cooler temperatures. She loved a good driver’s license picture and made sure to have her lipstick on at all times. She is blessed to be reunited with Sam with a gorgeous tan and at her goal weight!
She spent her leisure time watching Netflix and was always looking for suggestions for binge-worthy series. Sally could be found shopping at Chico’s, where she loved a sale, playing Words with Friends religiously and enjoying a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. She loved college sports and her Sunday dinners at Pamela and Tom’s house. Every morning was spent having her coffee, catching up on Facebook and reading the obituaries in the Greensboro paper. Her morning routine also included checking the temperature in Dublin, Ireland, where her daughter Amy lives, and later texting her to comment on the weather. She and Sam enjoyed traveling, visiting their children living abroad and cruising.
Sally was always very active and started running before it was popular. She was a breast cancer survivor who started to swim at the age of 53 after her recovery from surgery. She went on to become a Masters Swimmer and held national and world records. She was a huge part of the swimming community in Greensboro, both as a coach and swim teacher to hundreds of children. She continued to teach swim lessons and had gone to swim practice just a week before she passed away. Sally competed in the Irish Liffey Swim (through the center of Dublin) several times and was recognized as being the oldest person to participate. Most recently, she completed the swim with three generations (Amy, Pamela, Gregory and Delia). Sally still had a bucket list of swims and Alcatraz was on it, as well as the Liffey once again. She also enjoyed playing golf and being involved at Rivermont Country Club. Her resilience after the death of her husband was admirable, as she created a fulfilling life for herself with friends and family both young and old.
“It always seems that people that vibrant could never cease to be, like they just have so much fire, they must be eternal.” This was Sally. Only hours before her death, Sally commented on Facebook saying “life is good,” and this provides comfort to her family. Sally will be remembered for her laughter that filled a room. She was the heart of the family and her death has left a void that will never be filled.
Sally’s beloved husband, Sam, preceded her in death in 2015, as did her parents, Margaret Mouser Nebergall and John Gerald Nebergall, and siblings, Robert Gerald Nebergall and Mary Ann Bliss Denny. She is survived by her children Pamela McKinstry (Tom), Samuel, Megan and Thomas; Amy Murphy, Delia and Maeve O’Malley; Gregory Newell (Janet), Hannah Govan (Jonathan), Olivia and Sarah; John Newell (Lainey), Mackenzie, Peyton Derrick (Andrew) and Hallie; her sister, Jane Dyal (Tom) and many nieces and nephews as well as her beloved four-legged companion, Sandy.
The family will have a private mass to celebrate Sally’s incredible life, with a memorial service to be held at a later date. Donations can be made in memory of Sally Newell to the St. Francis Springs Prayer Center (http://www.stfrancissprings.com) or to the Hayes Taylor YMCA to fund the Swim to Learn program that provides free swim lessons to underserved Greensboro youth. To donate, go to ysupport.org and write “in memory of Sally Newell for swim lessons at Hayes-Taylor Memorial YMCA” in the comments section.