Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023 Sally Foote Wilkins died peacefully at her home in Los Alamos, NM, where loved ones had gathered to see her off. She was 81 years old.
Sally was born Sept. 20, 1942 in Leadville, Colorado to Max and Eugenia Foote, and grew up in Paola, Kansas with her younger brother Max Foote and her longtime best friend Ota Roadhouse. She had a childhood that was full of fun and mischief – getting into trouble for taking her mother’s car out for a spin when she was just twelve years old (and teaching herself to drive a stick shift on the fly), sneaking out at night with friends, and generally living a life that was richer and more exciting than her parents ever knew about.
She was, however, an exemplary student, and after graduating from Paola High School in 1960, she went to the University of Kansas, graduating in 1964. She then attended Harvard University, where one day while walking across the Yard, a young man noticed her beautiful eyes and struck up a conversation. His name was Ron Wilkins. They fell in love and were married in 1966. In 1970, she gave birth to her son, Jon. At the time of her passing, she and Ron had been married for 57 years.
In 1975 Sally became the second woman to receive a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois. In 1977, She, Ron, and Jon moved to Los Alamos, NM – the town that would become her permanent home and a place she loved dearly. She worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory in scientific programming and network engineering while she and Ron raised Jon. She retired from the Lab in 1998. In 2004, she and Ron built their dream house at the end of Barranca Mesa.
Sally was a person with a lot of passions. She loved hiking and being outdoors, and she spent many years as a member of the Lemon Lot Hiking Group. She adored traveling with her husband, and together they made trips throughout the world to places like the Galapagos Islands, Sicily, Crete, Baja California, and numerous trips to the UK, most recently, to the Shetland and Orkney Islands. She was an avid reader and bridge player, and she loved spending time with friends in book groups and bridge clubs. She was a long-time Chicago Cubs fan, and for many years, she and Ron would spend a month in Mesa, AZ every year to watch spring training with friends. She loved live theater, was a season ticket holder at Popejoy Hall, and enjoyed watching shows on Broadway when visiting her son in New Jersey. She loved the National Parks, visiting dozens of them over her life, and working as a volunteer at Bandelier. She also served on the board of Living Treasures of Los Alamos in the role of treasurer.
Sally is probably best known, however, for her rescue efforts on behalf of dogs. She worked tirelessly to provide free spay and neutering services for animals in New Mexico. She was one of the original founders of Friends of the Shelter, and she worked to get the old, unsafe shelter building replaced with the current shelter building on East Road. She found homes for dogs who needed them, and often took the hardest-to-place dogs home herself, where she and Ron loved and cared for them better than anyone else ever could. When she passed, Sally will have been greeted by the wet noses and wagging tails of Lady, Valentine, Charlie, Winston, Sasha, Sebastian, Maggie, Bear, Westie, Poppy, Lola, Sophie, and a number of Fritzes.
Sally is survived by her husband Ron, her son Jon, her grandson Dash, her daughter-in-law Lizzie, as well as her dogs Gemma and Sammy. She is also survived by her brother Max Foote Jr., his wife Judy, her niece Autumn Michelle, her nephews Max III, Randy, and Craig, and their families. She leaves behind too many friends to count. To say that she will be missed is an understatement. She has left a hole behind her that no one else could fill.
A celebration of her life is being planned for a later date.
The family requests that donations be made to Los Alamos Friends of the Shelter and Companion Animals online at https://www.lafos.org/donate or by check at: Friends of the Shelter and Companion Animals, PO Box 455, Los Alamos, NM 87544
Rivera Family Funeral Home of Los Alamos is grateful for the opportunity to assist the Wilkins at this time. Please visit www.riverafamilyfuneralhome.com to leave pictures and stories as a way of cherishing Sally’s life.