Sallie Potterton 1937-2023

A double selfie of Sallie with her son Tom in 2016.

By Kevin Lowry

THE VILLAGE OF Ocean Beach as well as the arts community at large mourn the passing of Sallie Potterton. Born Sallie Elsabeth Ann Grant in Gloucestershire, England, Oct. 4, 1937, she spent most of her formative years living with her grandparents in a nondescript British village avoiding the horror of the Nazi Blitzkrieg. After completing her post-war art training at the London Royal Academy of Arts, Sallie briefly emigrated to Canada and then on to New York. In 1961 she met Reg Potterton. Sallie found work with The New York Times as a fashion illustrator and Reg was working as a Vietnam war correspondent with Reuters. The two were married and their son, Alexander Thomas (Tom) McGregor Potterton, was born in 1966.

The couple divorced in 1968. Shortly thereafter, Sallie met the man who would become her life-long companion, Mike Taylor, a well-recognized fixture of Fire Island in his own right. Sallie, Mike and Tom first moved to Ocean Bay Park in 1970. Sallie was doing illustrations for children’s books. Their off-season social life revolved closely around the fire department where Mike was a volunteer.

In 1994, The New York Times did a piece on Sallie, called Storm Tossed Art. A vicious tempest that almost destroyed the home that she and Mike were living in actually deposited a treasure trove on the beach. The Times reporter quoted Sallie as saying, “I found the most amaz- ing things that had been washed up by the storm.” Always resourceful and astonishingly creative, she used those “amazing things” to create some personal masterpieces. Her collection has been featured at the Ocean Beach Historical Society and elsewhere.

A dedicated animal welfare advocate, Sallie was one of the deer monitors when Fire Island National Seashore partnered the U.S. Humane Society in the immunocontraception study conducted on Fire Island in the 1990s. Some may also be aware of Sallie’s great dragonfly experiment. In order to find a natural way to reduce the mosquito population, Sallie personally deposited hundreds of dragonfly eggs all about town. We still have mosquitoes, but whenever a magnificent dragonfly appears, have a little thought of Sallie.

Having made fewer public appearances these last few years, Sallie lost her battle with dementia on Sept. 25, 2022. Tom was by her side at an assist- ed living facility in Durango, Colorado, only a few hours before she left to join her love, Mike. Sallie and Mike had finally wed only a few years before he passed about a decade ago. Sallie Potterton will be fondly remembered by all whose lives she touched.