Sally Jackson Part 1

They say there are only seven degrees of separation between any two people on earth. While that may be true, here in the Valley there is  only one degree of separation  between Sal Jackson and every other person living in the area. If you do not know her personally, it is a fact that you know someone that does, and more likely you know 20 people that do. With Sal Jackson you can take this concept to the next level. It is safe to say that if you live in the Valley, your life has been impacted by her and if by some chance it has not, then you still know hundreds whose lives have been.

Up until I recently sat down with her at her home, I was one of those who had never met her though I had known of her all my life. How many young boys like myself played summer baseball? Those that did either played for or against the teams she coached  .

“I was the first woman coach and I kicked a lot of ass,” she said  in the straight-forward, salty vernacular  she is known for. “The other coaches used to hate to see me coming.”

Sal, who was very athletic at West Valley six decades ago, learned to coach and love the game of baseball through Ron Jackson, her husband of 57 years. “He was playing professional baseball when we got married and he taught me everything I know about coaching,” she said as Ron sat quietly next to her. “He has Parkinson’s now. That’s a dirty trick to play on a nice guy.”

For forty years, up until 4 years ago, Ron and Sal coached generation after generation of boys in Pee Wee’s, Midgets, Babe Ruth and American Legion leagues. That alone had more of an impact on young Valley lives than most of us will ever make. But in terms of just summer sports it was one of her smaller contributions.

Think of all the girls in the Valley who play softball each summer, then think Sal Jackson, then think impact on Valley youth. Until she decided to start the Girls Softball League in the Valley 42 years ago, there was no such opportunity.  I remember my sister being written up in the Valley Herald with an incredible one-person triple play 40 years ago and now I go to my daughters’ games at the East Valley complex each summer like hundreds of other parents.

“That really makes me feel good to go over there and see all those cars in the parking lot and all those kids playing softball and their families cheering them on,” she said, adding that she organized the league and taught coaching clinics but only coached the boys. “I just always loved baseball and hard pitch, but I thought the girls should have a chance too.”

“I’ve always stayed involved to this day because I wanted to make sure that every girl who wanted to play, whether their family could afford it or not, was able to play. No kid is turned away because of money,” she said, explaining that the league has achieved that accomplishment and is so carefully run that starting this year it will begin awarding scholarships to be named “The Sally Jackson Scholarship.” That, she said, makes her very happy.

Sal’s huge contribution to Valley youth baseball is enough to back up my assertion about her impact on the Valley, but bear with me, I am only getting started. Do you know someone who learned to swim here? If Sal didn’t teach them herself, she probably taught the person who taught them.

For 58 years Sal has been giving swimming lessons. She probably taught the fish at Newman Lake a few things about how to swim when she first worked for the county at Honeymoon Bay before there was such a thing as county pools. Forty years ago, she and Ron built a pool at their home with their own hands to teach local kids how to swim. This summer at age 77, she will teach another 400 kids how to survive in the water.

“We just charge enough to pay for expenses. But every year I get a note or hear from someone who tells a story about how someone had a close call in the water and they would not have made it if we hadn’t taught them how to swim,” she said. “So I feel like we need to keep going on until I can’t crawl out of the pool or get too fat to fit in.”

“I love children,” said Sal, the mother of 7 kids and grandmother to a growing number. “And I think we are put here to make this a better place for them.”

Perhaps the depth of her love for children and her belief in working on their behalf is most evident in her work these past 25 years as a child advocate for the juvenile court system. While most of us read in the newspaper about stories of child abuse and shake our heads, Sal meets with the families and the agencies and sits down with the suffering children. Then she stands before the judge, pro bono, and fights for what is best for the child with nothing to gain for herself but the satisfaction that she is doing what she can to make a positive impact on the life of one more Valley chil

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