Obituary: Sally Helme (1953-2024)

Elizabeth “Sally” Snowden Ely Helme of Middletown, Rhode Island, beloved Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Niece, Cousin and Dog Mom passed away unexpectedly on March 20, 2024 at 70 years of age.

Despite an amazing career, Family was always Sally’s first priority. She was devoted, loving, kind and generous. Her warm demeanor was welcoming and caring, she made you feel valued and loved. Sally was a good listener. She was humble and wise and was often a go to for counsel with all of her siblings and nieces and nephews. She loved her nieces and nephews like her own and was proud of every one of them. She always put others before herself and somehow found the time to “be there” whether physically or across the airwaves, despite her busy and demanding schedule.

Sally was born Elizabeth Snowden Ely Helme in Philadelphia, PA to Jay and Mary S. (Bonnie) Helme on September 4, 1953. She was born while her father was still attending Princeton University. She spent a short time there and then another year in Oklahoma while her father completed his US Army Service at Fort Sill.

By the time she was three years old, the family had settled in Paoli, Pa where it grew to include her sisters Suzy, Sandy and brother Skip.

Sally graduated from The Agnes Irwin School of Villanova, Pa. in 1971. She excelled in Academics and also participated in Sports, the Drama Club and was the Editor of the School’s 1971 Yearbook. She earned her Undergraduate degree at Princeton University in History and Biology/History of Science and was amongst the first class of women to be enrolled as Freshman in 1971. She received her Masters Degree in Management from Salve Regina University, Newport RI, which she earned while being employed full time.

The family summered on Shelter Island, New York where Sally developed her skills and passion for sailing and boating. She sailed one design boats, the Woodpussy and Comet, at Shelter Island Yacht Club (SIYC) and the East End of Long Island for multiple Regattas. She later moved up to sail large handicap boats, both as crew and occasional skipper of the family’s Bristol ’34 “Typhoon”. She was SIYC’s first female Sailing Director. Sally’s involvement with SIYC extended into her adult years, when she was appointed as a Trustee, the first female to hold that position.

Sally devoted her nearly 50-year career to the Sailing Industry. Starting as a Summer Sailing Instructor for SIYC in the 70s, she went on to work for numerous employers post her College Graduation including McMichael Yachts, Greenport, NY; C & C Yachts, Portsmouth, RI; Lewmar Winches, UK and Guilford, Conn; and “The Yacht” Sailing Magazine(Founding Member). Her most recent and final post was as Publisher (Emeritus) for both Sailing World and Cruising World Magazines where she served for over two decades. Sally was the first female Publisher in the sailing industry.

Sally was highly regarded, valued and respected by her peers in the Sailing and Marine Industries, and she made her mark on many organizations. She was recognized as a leader and a champion for women sailors. She was a founding member of International Women in Boating. Sally also helped to create and sponsor National Women’s Sailing Association’s “Take the Helm” series of women’s educational and networking events.

Sally was a past president of Sail America, and a former Vice President of Marine Marketers of America. She previously served on the Boards of both Sail Newport and US Sailing.

Sally was an active Board Member of the Sailing Hall of Fame, Newport, RI and Imtra (marine, transportation & energy products) New Bedford, Mass.

Sally was an active member of the New York Yacht Club where she served on the Communications Committee.

Over the years Sally received multiple Awards and Accolades for her contributions to the Sailing and Marine Industries. Always humble, she downplayed these achievements and often her family didn’t know until after the Award had been presented. All who knew her loved her, as is demonstrated in the outpouring of tributes and notes of condolences to her family from far and wide.

Sally was predeceased by her parents Jay and Bonnie Helme. Jay died in 2019 and after his death, Sally’s mother Bonnie lived with her in both Cape Coral, Fla and Middletown RI. until her (Bonnie’s) passing in August of 2023.

Sally is survived (in her immediate family) by her siblings Suzy Helme of West Chester PA, Sandy and her husband Gregg Griffin of Southampton NY, and Skip Helme and his wife Nancy of Marathon, Fla. She is also survived by her six nieces and nephews: Gregg Griffin Jr. and his wife Elizabeth of Newport RI, Elizabeth Bowden of Southampton NY, Hayley Bowden of Salem, MA, Morgan Helme of Newport RI, Reese Bowden of Tiverton, RI and Henry Helme also of Newport, RI. Sally’s Corgi mix “Rusty” and her parents’ yellow Labrador “Wren”, whom she adopted in 2023, were her loyal companions.

A private burial is planned. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to Potter League for Animals, 87 Oliphant Lane, Middletown, Rhode Island 02842.

A thought to hold, using Sally’s own words: “I have also always valued what sailing can bring to our lives — providing a wonderful escape, instilling a sense of confidence and self-reliance, and simply offering cherished time on the water with friends and family.”

To honor Sally and keep her memory alive, Sail on friends and family.




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