Obituary of Sally Rae Gass
Sally Rae Speken Gass passed away peacefully just after noon on Tuesday, 21 July 2020, at age 86. Sally was born in Pueblo, Colorado, on 30 June 1934, the only child of Jessie Esther Greenberg and Herman Speken. Sally had the good fortune to have as strong role models a family of immigrant-born high achievers in the physical and biomedical sciences, and successful businessmen. Her achievements proved to be no less significant. Attending Pueblo Central High School, Sally graduated as valedictorian of her senior class and was the school’s candidate for the DAR “Good Citizen” award. Upon graduation, Sally was selected to join the first class of Boettcher Scholars to enter the University of Colorado. She later transferred to Washington University, St. Louis, where she went on to achieve a Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude (highest honors), and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society. She went on to teach in schools in Arlington, Virginia, and two cities in Texas. Upon returning to Colorado, Sally accepted a general classroom teaching position in the Denver Public Schools. It was during that time, she met the love of her life, architect Alan Golin Gass. Sally and Alan married on 18 December 1960, settling into a small house in Cherry Creek East, while their house next to the potential City of Brest Park was under construction. At that time, Sally had already started teaching general classroom at Gust, and then Knight Elementary School. During her time at Knight, she assisted in writing and producing the annual Christmas pageants. At the time that the music teacher retired, the principal asked Sally to innovate a new music curriculum and teach elementary music. With no formal music teaching training, Sally took over the position and made it hers. From that point on, it was one challenging music, and, later, drama teaching position after another. At the same time, Sally had the opportunity to enter the commercial world, when the General Agent of the Denver office of State Mutual Assurance Company gave her the opportunity to write, direct, and perform, with the agents, a musical comedy-based satire of the insurance business for the national convention of the company at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. This activity would repeat itself two more times, in different iterations, during Sally’s career at The Phoenix Biltmore Hotel, and, lastly for the Agency’s 40th anniversary, at the Colorado Convention Center. During her time at Knight, she became pregnant with her only daughter, Dana Merrill Gass. At the time, teachers were required to take maternity leave. During that leave, Sally continued teaching at a substitute in the DPS, and then a classroom teacher in the Denver Parochial Schools. Upon resuming full time teaching she taught music at Barnum and Stevens Schools. Then the next challenge was presented to her. Sally was transferred to Carson School as the music teacher, and then given the additional assignment to innovate a curriculum for teaching music to the hearing handicapped. Another successful challenge met! One summer, while teaching at Carson, Sally was given the assignment to write a program for the new Integrated Arts Curriculum. In the following summers she wrote the Innovative Music Kit for grades 2 and 3, then went on to work as a member of the summer Outcome-based Education curriculum team. She continued developing curricula in various subjects with the Challenge Performing Arts Module. It was during this time that Sally decided to formally acquire the academic status to qualify as a music teacher. She commuted to CU, Boulder, to obtain her Master of Music Education degree, with highest honors. Finally, she became a member of the Integrated Arts Curriculum Team, specializing in music and drama. During that time, Sally also became the integrated arts specialist at Whittier School as a unique resource teacher to develop, write, and teach new interdisciplinary units. That activity continued until all arts teaching was sidelined by Denver Public Schools. Sally retired at that time. She continued to teach as a substitute music teacher in several local systems. After an assignment as part-time music teacher at Fallis Elementary, Sally gave up teaching entirely. Earlier, while teaching full-time, Sally was given another opportunity to use her prodigious musical and drama, writing and directing skills. In 1976, 1978, 1954, and 1988, the Denver media organizations commissioned Sally to write and direct the annual “Gridiron” political satire events of those years. Sally also served on the volunteer board to form the Colorado International School of the Arts that ultimately became the Denver School of the Arts. Gifted with a superb, almost coloratura singing voice, Sally acted and sang over the years in productions of the Empire Lyric Opera, the Bonfils Theater, the Temple Sinai Players, anniversary productions at Temple Emanuel. Sally had been a member of the Directors Society support group at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts for some time when she was offered the opportunity to assist in writing the study guides for the plays given by the theater company. For 25 years, she continued doing background research and writing of the study guides until early last year. Throughout her life, Sally loved to travel. She and Alan traveled the United States, Hawaii, Mexico, and central America, and most major European cities on auto trips and river cruises. They traveled to China, twice. to Morocco, Egypt and Israel. Those who perhaps thought that they knew Sally well, but could not fathom her desire for privacy and disinterest in outdoors recreation, gardening and flowers, were certainly unaware of the lifelong demon that haunted her. Throughout her illustrious academic and professional career, Sally was continuously troubled by deep depression and feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. She was later diagnosed with bipolar disease, the demon that plagued her for her entire life, depriving her of the ultimate enjoyment of her brilliance and success. Sally is survived by her loving husband and daughter, Alan Golin Gass and Dana Merrill Brown (Peter), her grandson, Michael Dylan Greenker, and a number of close cousins. Out of respect for Sally’s wishes, please DO NOT SEND FLOWERS to the memorial or to Alan’s residence. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to The Denver Architecture Foundation, The Denver Public Library, Temple Emanuel, or The Denver Art Museum. Sally’s memory will be celebrated in a private memorial service on Sunday, 26 July 2020, at 1:00PM Mountain Time (US and Canada). The service will be livestreamed on Zoom: Topic: Sally Rae Gass Memorial Service Time: Jul 26, 2020 01:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada) Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89341562735?pwd=MldwVlhCd0J2NkpFK3F3eDNXQVNuZz09 Meeting ID: 893 4156 2735 Passcode: 158448 One tap mobile +13462487799,,89341562735#,,,,,,0#,,158448# US (Houston) +16699006833,,89341562735#,,,,,,0#,,158448# US (San Jose) Dial by your location +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose) +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma) +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 929 436 2866 US (New York) +1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown) Meeting ID: 893 4156 2735 Passcode: 158448 Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kenV4cpJPx To set proper expectations: Connectivity is often limited in cemeteries and parks. If you are not able to find the live-stream, that means the connection was not established and the live-stream is NOT available. We will have an audio recording of the funeral service available at a later date.