Sally Ann McNees
Remembering Sally

Remarks at Memorial Service
for Sally Ann McNees (1953-2014)

Crossroads Bible Church
1670 Moorpark Avenue, San Jose, CA
Saturday, December 13, 2014, 1:00 pm

By Peter Y. Chou

Meeting Sally at Cubberley Pavilion Ballroom Dancing (May 2002)

Ballroom Dancing at Cubberley Pavilion
4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
It was a Saturday in May 2002 when my partner at ballroom dancincg went to Marisposa near Yosemite, to visit her first granddaughter, who's four-months old. That's when I saw Sally for the first time at Cubberley Pavilion. We danced together the whole night. Sally was one of the few ballroom dancers who looked at me straight in the eyes when we danced. She was especially good in the Viennese waltz, as we turned like a carousel around the room. As Sally got better dancing, she was very popular, and it was hard getting more dances with her. That's why it was a delight meeting Sally by chance at the Stanford Theatre where we'd dance in the balcony lobby between films. After her knee operation, Sally didn't take her doctor's advice, and came dancing just two weeks later because she loved dancing so much. Unfortunately, she had to have another operation for not resting enough.

Sally Takes Me Shopping at Safeway

Safeway Supermarket
2580 California St., Mountain View
My friend at ballroom dancing takes me shopping at Safeway after midnight when Saturday ballroom dancing is over at Cubberley. One time she was taking to Henrick who goes hiking with us at Rancho San Antonio and the Pinnacles. Sally saw me standing there and tells me "Can't you see— she has jilted you. I'll take you to Safeway shopping." Sally would get Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, her Dad's favorite cereal, and other food she'd cook for him. She told me that after her Mom died, her Dad became more reclusive, not venturing out of the house for activities. Finding out that I was a biochemist, she asked me to meet her Dad, a physicist and expert on vaccum tubes. She tells me "I'm sure you'll have lots of interesting discussions." Unfortunately, I didn't take up Sally's offer and saw her Dad just once (see below). Sally took me Safeway shopping after midnight (2005-2006) until her Dad died.

Sally & Her Dad Met Me at Stanford for Einstein Talk

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Photo: Yousuf Karsh, 1948
I met Sally's Dad, Sterling McNees only on one occasion, on October 27, 2005 at "A Century of Relativity 1905-2005: An Einstein Workshop" at Stanford's Wallenberg Hall. Sally had told me about her Dad's earlier research in physics. So I mentioned the upcoming Einstein Workshop, which Sally brought him along. We sat together listening to Dr. Tilman Sauer from Caltech speaking on "Einstein's Unified Field Theory" and Dr. Dean Rickles from University of Calgary speaking on "What Price Determinism". While the talks were fascinating, some of the technical presentations were much too advanced for both of us. After the workshop ended at 5 pm, refreshments were served in the lobby. However, I had to rush to another talk at 5:45 pm by Dr. Tsondue Gyatso on "Tibetan Medicine" at Stanford's Medical School (registration required), and couldn't take Sterling along. So I didn't have time to chat more with Sterling after the Physics Workshop. I did share with Sterling my favorite Einstein quote: "Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives."

Sally's Thanksgiving & Christmas Potluck Parties

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
in Sally's Backyard, Los Altos Hills
Thanksgiving, November 25, 2010
After Mom passed away on Christmas 2005, Sally gave me a big hug, and invited me to her Thanksgiving & Christmas Potluck Parties. Mom was a good cook and entertained some 20 guests at our Floral Park home in Queens, New York. But Sally's parties had over 50 guests and she was a terrific hostess and organizer. She stationed a husky guy as the "Kitchen Police" forbidding any guest to enter the kitchen when she's roasting her turkey. I cooked Chinese pan-fried noodles with a dozen vegetables and put them in a casserole. I told Sally it needed heating at 400o for half an hour. She told the burly police to let me in and put it in her oven, then get out! After dinner, Sally would play Chrismas hymnals on her piano, taking requests from guests. Getting tired of the hymnals, I finally requested "Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer". Sally smiled "OK! Here's Rudolph for Peter!" Soon afterwards, Rudolph Perez came into my life. We sit next to each other at Foothill College Middlefield Computer Lab, and he became my best friend, doing many things together.

Poems in Memory of Sterling McNees

"Organ-playing Angel
by Stephan Lochner
from Maria in der Rosenlaube (1448)
When I learned that Sterling McNees had died (6-13-2006) from Sally's June 19th email, I noted that she sent it at 5:55 pm. Since 55 is the number of the Soul of the universe according to Plato's Timaeus, I was struck by the coincidence. Also a monarch butterfly had flown over me that day. Since the Greek word psyche for butterfly also means soul, it was doubly meaningful. I compiled a booklet Poems in Memory of Sterling McNees (6-22-2006) which I gave to Sally at her Dad's Memorial Service. I wrote the poem "Peace... Openness... Understanding..." for Sterling McNees (Notes). I also included Einstein's Universe Quote: “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest— a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.” Many thanked me for reading this at Sterling's Memorial Service.

Meeting & Dancing with Sally at Stanford Theatre

Stanford Theatre Marquee
University Ave, Palo Alto
Sally loved classic films at the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto. We'd meet there often by chance in the mezzanine. Some of the movies Sally liked were Shop Around the Corner (1940), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) as well as the Fred & Ginger movies. Whether I'm there alone or with a date, Sally would hug me and we'd dance to the Wurlitzer during the 10-minute intermission between movies in the balcony lobby. After one of the Fred & Ginger tunes, some lady would say "That's lovely." Sally tells her "Be my guest" and I'd be whirling with the stranger. When the music was over, my date complained "You danced with Sally and a stranger, and I didn't get a dance in." But when Sally died, my friend told me "I should have let you talk and dance with Sally more" and wrote this poem "Sally" (12-4-2014). I composed this alliterative haiku about Sally two days ago (12-11-2014)— "She brightens your day /
with her warm sweet smile— / Such is She— Sunshine Sally."

Chat with Sally at Stanford Theatre after Seventh Heaven (1927 & 1937)

7th Heaven (1927)
classic silent film
director: Frank Borzage

On March 13, 2009, David Woodley Packard treated the audience with the silent 1927 7th Heaven (7:30-9:20 pm) and the 1937 remake sound version Seventh Heaven (9:30-11:02 pm). The former film was directed by Frank Borzage, starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. The latter was directed by Henry King starring Simone Simon (born on Sally's birthday April 23) and James Stewart. Both versions are based on the play Seventh Heaven (1922) by Austin Strong (adopted by Robert Louis Stevenson). The plot is set in 1914 lower class district in Paris. Diane is beaten brutally by her sister because she refused to entertain customers in her sleazy bar. She's rescued by the sewer worker Chico, who marries her. When Chico went to war for four years, Diane prayed for his safety. Chico returns blind but alive. The couple embrace and restore their faith. After the films, Sally tells me, "I usually go ballroom dancing after the Friday night movies. But today I'm going straight home because these two movies are so deep and touching."
Seventh Heaven (1937)
sound version remake
directed by Henry King

Robert Lax: "Life is beautiful because it is holy."

Robert Lax
Robert Lax and Thomas Merton met as students at Columbia University (my Alma Mater) in 1935 and became lifelong friends. In his old age, Lax lived on the island of Patmos (where John the Evangelist wrote Book of Revelations). Lax looked like Saint Jerome or Saint Anthony, one of the Desert Fathers. I love his "Poem 27" from A Thing That Is:
Life is not holy
because it is beautiful.

It is beautiful
because it is holy.
— Robert Lax (1915-2000),

     A Thing That Is, Poem 27
     (Ed. Paul J. Spaeth, Overlook Press,
     Woodstock, NY, 1997, p. 47

Sally is both a beautiful and holy person. Lucky am I to have known her
and became her friend.

— Peter Y. Chou,, December 13, 2014
on 14th anniversary of Dad's passing (December 13, 2000)

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