In The People's Blog

On Thursday, June 16, the Senate adjourned in memory and honor of the extraordinary Sarah Etelman. I offered the following remarks to commemorate Sarah’s life and legacy. A recording of my remarks is here


Sarah Etelman – beloved by many – died on June 3 following a courageous, three-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Sarah was just 53 years old – taken too soon from those who loved and admired her. I offer this closing in partnership with Representative Dan Carey, with whom I share the representation of South Hadley.

Across western Massachusetts – and beyond – people are mourning Sarah who served on Town of South Hadley, MA’s Selectboard since 2013 and was  Vice Chair when she died, chaired the South Hadley Democratic Town Committee, volunteered on local nonprofit boards, and worked at regional nonprofits for decades.

Most recently, Sarah was honored with the Dream Maker Award by Girls Inc. where she led the work to raise funds to support the organization’s mission of making girls strong, smart, and bold.

Girls Inc. Executive Director said of Sarah, “Sarah was a strong advocate for girls, a smart, committed member of the Girls Inc. team for twelve years. Her activism around diversity, equity and inclusion for girls’ growth and development was nothing short of inspirational.”

Sarah is remembered by family, friends, co-workers, and her community as kind, creative, whip-smart, unabashedly distinctive, and as a champion for local businesses and farmers markets. Her heart was fierce and her humor and wit were endless.

South Hadley Democratic Town Committee Chair, Susan Newton said of Sarah, “Our Commonwealth and the Town of South Hadley lost one of its brightest lights with the passing of Sarah Etelman. Sarah didn’t let the bully that is cancer stop her from continuing to work on behalf of South Hadley residents, nor did she step back from her continued mentoring of other female candidates for public office. She served until she simply couldn’t, and well past when many would have turned to their own interests. Sarah’s legacy includes a stronger South Hadley, and for those of us she leaves behind – buoyed by Sarah’s incredible bravery – a renewed commitment to fight for the good and help vanquish the bad.”

Sarah grew up in Wayland and attended Ithaca College. She is survived by sisters Carla Schine and Paula Webb, cousins Faith and Julia Michaels, uncle Fred Wilcon, and countless community members who mourn her loss and celebrate her extraordinary life.

The ultimate optimist mixed with her own brand of pragmatism, in her biography on the Girls Inc. website, Sarah wrote that Dolly Parton headlined the first concert she ever attended, and that she embraced Parton’s life philosophy: “If you want to see the rainbow, you’ve gotta put up with the rain.”

Sarah lived life out of the box. Her favorite color was purple because – of course – she wouldn’t be a primary color. She would choose her own unique style.

Fellow South Hadley Selectboard member, Andrea Miles, said of Sarah, “She was more than politics. She was a gifted artist and a joyful audience of musicals and shows. She loved her friends like family and treasured her cats. In honor of Sarah’s life, I encourage us to shop local, wear purple, go for a walk, or enjoy a chocolate martini (her favorite). Above all of that, register to vote and help someone else register to vote. That would be a legacy she’d love.”

Sarah was a gift to us all.

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