Remembering a life well lived

Sallie Joseph in 2003.

Sallie Joseph in 2003. Shannon Litz/ R-C File Photo


I receive a telephone call from my good friend Jan Hunewill. A Celebration of Life is planned for Sallie Joseph and will be at Jan’s Ranch here in Smith Valley. Sallie and Jan spent many happy hours, days, and weeks going to cowboy poetry readings in Elko, national sheep dog trials and even visits to the Hollywood Film Festival in Lone Pine. Jan is quite a talker and filled me in on more details than I would ever be able to put down on paper I thought.
Jan then invites me to the Celebration and I put it on my calender, but select the wrong date. Inevitably I realize I my mistake and scramble frantically through my notes from the telephone conversation with Jan. Fortunately, I glean a clear picture of this amazing woman.
Sallie Joseph joined the staff at the Hunewill Guest Ranch in Bridgeport as a young girl. Eventually she became part of the extended Hunewill family. “Sally spent many years with my daughter Megan(Jan’s daughter, who is in charge of matching the right horse for each guest) in our big barn on the ranch. Sallie had the best knack for making people feel at ease around horses. Another of her talents was working with children. She would get so excited when she found a new way to put more fun into a game for the kids,” Jan says.
Sallie was also an artist of profound importance. She didn’t dabble in art, she indulged in art. She painted in oil, acrylic, watercolor, on canvas, on tile, and on wood. She also worked in leather and made jewelry.
Yesterday, Orllyene and I drove up to Twin Lakes to enjoy the scenery. Remnants of heavy snow persisted. As we motored past the Hunewill Ranch, it seemed quietly in mourning as a result of Sallie’s passing. Sally always lived life “flat out.” She and Jan knew the meaning of travel and emphatically shared the outdoors with guests. What we spend our lives doing speaks volumes of who we are. This summer, Ranch guests will not be privy to Sallie’s ineffable joy. Sally was “music” in a world that is sometimes filled with discord. She found harmony in life. I am very sorry I missed her Celebration in Life, but happy that I jotted down Jan and my telephone conversation.
On the evening of the day of the Celebration, Orllyene and I celebrate her birthday at the Heyday Inn. The crowd is festive, the food delicious and we have a wonderful time. When I ask the server for the check, she says it has been taken care of. I am astonished and ask, “Really, by whom?” She nods and says “Megan.”
As we are about to leave we stop at Megan’s table and thank her. “It’s our pleasure, she says and asks, “Were you” at the Celebration today?” I squirm and answer no, because I had the day incorrect. This was how I discovered my error.
Ron Walker can be reached at


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