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Sally Higgins at home in downstate Delaware By James Diehl


hree years after the end of World War II, in 1948, Sally Higgins came to Sussex County for a job interview – the soon-to-be University of Delaware graduate was introduced to a whole new world, one she would never dream of leaving these days. Her first impression of “Slower Lower,” however, was less than earth shattering. “The principal of Georgetown High School was at the university and talked my roommate and me into coming down for job interviews,” remembers Higgins, who grew up on a farm just south of New Castle. “Well, we took the train and that train stopped in the middle of nowhere. We got off and there were chicken feathers flying all over the place. It’s a wonder I ever took the job.” More than six decades later, Higgins is Sussex County through and through; she now says she wouldn’t dream of ever leaving southern Delaware. A former school teacher and guidance counselor, Higgins has been retired for nearly 20 years. But you’d never know it by visiting Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, just one of a dozen or so organizations she has devoted her time to over the years. Starting with the hospital in the 1960s, Higgins has given nearly 16,000 hours of her time to the facility she calls a “godsend” to the local community. Serving for many years as treasurer of the hospital’s hospitality shop, Higgins has seen western Sussex County’s only major health care facility blossom through the years to what it is today. “I decided a long time ago that I would do anything I could to help the hospital, and that’s what I’ve devoted my volunteer hours to doing,” she says. “I’m just glad I’m still healthy enough to come out here and help. Being a widow is not an easy thing, and this gives me a reason to get out of the house. Otherwise, I think I’d just wilt away.” “As a volunteer, Sally is in a league of her own,” adds Jean Baldwin, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital’s director of volunteer services. “She is totally dedicated to Nanticoke and to her community. I just wish that I could clone her.” In addition to her work at Nanticoke Memorial and at the hospital’s Mears Health Campus, Higgins has also devoted her time through the years to many other

Heroes Series

If you know of someone who has dedicated his or her life to service to others, suggest their names for this series. Contact James Diehl at 302-222-2685 or email Bryant Richardson, brichardson@ community organizations, including the Curiosity Shop, the Friends of the Seaford Library, the Boys & Girls Club of Western Sussex and the Seaford Historical Society. The original New Castle County resident has embraced the Sussex County way of living through the years, giving more to her adopted hometown of Seaford than most people could even think of giving. It’s been a rewarding and fulfilling journey, one she still travels on nearly every day – just don’t mess with her card game. “I will do volunteer work at any time, other than when I’m playing bridge,” says the feisty 84-year-old. “I just loving staying busy, and I love playing cards. But I’ll volunteer any other time.” Sally Higgins grew up during the Great Depression on a family farm nestled near the banks of the Delaware River, between New Castle and Delaware City. While she lived there, she and her family never did get electricity, but there were certain benefits to living on a farm during the greatest economic downtown the country has ever experienced. “During the depression, we actually lived pretty well because we were farm people and we grew all this great food,” says Higgins, who remembers filling many an oil lamp during those trying times. “We had rows of raspberries and corn. We also had pigs and I remember hog killing time in February; we used to eat all this scrapple.” It’s those tough times in New Castle County that instilled in Higgins the need to help her fellow man. It was a tough life growing up, but one that made the long-time community volunteer what she is today. She never did envision making a life for herself in Sussex County, however. “My husband was born and raised in Sussex County and we just happened to


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Sally Higgins has logged nearly 16,000 hours of volunteer service to Nanticoke Memorial Hospital over the last four-plus decades. A native of New Castle County, she says today she would never consider leaving Sussex County until “the good Lord takes me.”

meet during a football game at the University of Delaware,” says Higgins. “Back then, it was my thinking that, if you went south of Dover, that was going to be the end of you; nobody would ever hear from you again. But you can’t get me back to New Castle County now.” Her time volunteering at the hospital has allowed Higgins to get back in touch with many people she knew a long time ago. That, she says, is now one of her greatest joys. “People will come up to me and I don’t know whether I taught them in Georgetown, Laurel or Seaford,” she says. “It’s just been great because I’ve re-met so many people that I’ve worked with through the years. I just really like that.” Higgins lost her husband, George, a World War II bomber pilot, in 1982. A devoted community activist, George Higgins was very involved with the Seaford Kiwanis Club. Today, the fountain that rests in Kiwanis Park in Seaford is named in his honor. His wife saw to it that his memory and his commitment to Seaford would never be forgotten.

“I put that fountain in there because of George; when he was in Kiwanis, he was in charge of the parks,” says Higgins. “He was just very community minded. He used to get me in the car at night and we would go out checking each of the parks. He even served on town council for a term because he felt as though citizens should each take a turn.” Less than 10 years ago, Sally Higgins was honored by the Soroptomist Club of Seaford with their annual “Woman of Distinction” award. It was the second time the club recognized her with one of its highest honors. “They treated me really well to give that award to me twice,” says a humble Higgins. “It’s just tremendous that they did. I’m very proud of the fact that I was able to be a member for so long.” Sally Higgins has lived a life filled with community service and volunteerism and has done it with gusto and passion. Not bad for a woman who used to think that Sussex County was where people went to “disappear.” “I’ll be here until the good Lord takes me,” she says today with a smile.

‘World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware’ and ‘Remembering Sussex County’ Titles from Award Winning Writer

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November 25 2010 S  
November 25 2010 S  

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