Sally Snauffer Thomas, née Smith, passed away peacefully in the evening of December 2, 2021, at Waynesboro Hospital in Pennsylvania, surrounded by her loved ones.
Known for her energy, vitality, and vivacity, she was a sister, an aunt, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother at the time of her passing.
“Mother,” it may be said, is a word which means a thousand things, and one. To those who knew her, Sally Thomas was the embodiment of these. Warm, effusive, and generous: to walk into a room she occupied was to receive a dazzling welcome, as if your arrival was the most marvelous thing in the world.
A more passionate soul could hardly be met with: Sally had only to think of something and she would hurl herself, body and soul, into it. Her talents seemed endless: she could sew, dance, decoupage, and design, and she gave free reign to the satisfaction of all these abilities the way she did everything: with enthusiasm. Yet, perhaps the most memorable aspect of all was her infectious laughter. Like all things, she put her whole self into her laugh: a sound to bring all those around her into instant merriment, simply to hear its joyful ring.
Sally was born in Frederick, Maryland, on August 5, 1938 to Jeannetta Geisburt Smith and Howard Smith on the grounds of her family home, Boscabel – since renamed Edgewood – in the millhouse where her parents were living with their two children, Ai and Barbara. There, Sally, the baby of the family, spent happy days, often recalling her wonder at the many beautiful trees which cropped up everywhere around her.
Throughout her life, she would stop, gazing skyward towards branches and foliage, and remark, “I think that I shall never see,/A poem lovely as a tree.” So saying, her face would light up, suffused by a smile, and memories of her idyllic childhood and beloved family members would naturally form the topic of conversation.
As time passed, Sally began her schooling at the Ladies’ Academy of the Visitation in Frederick. Surrounded by the kindness and devotion of the teaching sisters, Sally would often cite this as the source of the spiritual awakening that would lead her, many years later, to convert to Catholicism.
By fifth grade, Sally was enrolled in The Evelyn R. White School of Dance. During one recital, Sally and her class lined up in front of an older class, breathlessly waiting their turn to take the stage. Directly behind Sally stood a boy named Charles Thomas, who, seeing she was too short to peer round the curtain on her own, gallantly reached out to pull it back for her. Charles was, many years later, to become her husband.
After completing her schooling at Greenbrier College, Sally traveled to New York City with her sister. This was New York City of the late 1950’s and early ‘60’s – all bright lights and glamor. Sally would often reminisce upon this exciting time in her life and even recollect an occasion upon which she met Clark Gable. It was also during this time that Sally converted to Catholicism at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
She worked as a model, a ballerina, and an executive receptionist, charming all those she came across with her vivacity. New York was something of a dream, but it was to be cut short.
Hearing, in October 1961, of the sudden death of her father, Sally and her sister rushed home. Soon after the funeral, young Charles Thomas and his mother stopped by to pay their respects to her family, reacquainting the future lovers. Eventually, Charles asked Sally to dinner on the following Sunday. “Oh, I couldn’t,” demurred Sally, quite expecting, she would later admit, that her next words would put him off. “I’m a Catholic and I must go to Mass.” “Then,” volunteered Charles, merrily. “I’ll go with you. I’m a Catholic, too.”
So it was that, as Sally would often say, their first date was at church. A whirlwind romance ensued and the two were married on December 26, 1961 at St. Joseph’s in Buckeystown, Maryland, and traveled to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where Charles was stationed for the U.S. Army.
Sally would often laughingly recall the inauspicious first morning in her new home. Her husband’s alarm clock (as the very morning after their wedding he had to report for duty) so startled her, that she flew straight up in bed, dislodging a statue of St. Theresa from its perch and smashing it. The alarm, she said, had thoroughly earned that name, and the statue, for all her efforts, was never the same.
The young couple soon welcomed their firstborn, Margaret, and in due course came three more girls: Virginia, Victoria, and – some time later – Elizabeth. By the time Margaret was born, the little family had already returned to their homeland of Frederick, to start their lives anew in the place they, themselves, had grown up. They rented the Ijamsville home Sally’s parents had built until they were ready to buy a home of their own, and Sally found herself once more ensconced in the trees she so loved. Nonetheless, raising three girls in such close quarters soon saw the young family moving to downtown Frederick’s 3rd Street. Sally instantly set about fixing up their new home to her vision, decking out an antique abode with modern facilities while also remaining true to its ancient character, as was to be her decorating legacy.
In the early 70s, Sally became a member of the Frederick Historical Society, working tirelessly with the nascent Historical Preservation group to keep the Schifferstadt House property from being demolished and turned into a gas station. At the same time, the house across the street from Schifferstadt, which was for sale, caught her eye. She and Charles bought it, restored it, and saved it, too, from destruction.
Rescuing these two cornerstone properties marked out the borders of Baker Park and Rosemont Avenue, preserving their beauty for generations to come, by preventing the area from becoming a consumer strip. Sally further helped create a new event in their beloved hometown, making their house on Third Street one of the houses featured in the first Candlelight House Tour.
In addition to all this and the task of raising the children and running the house – which fell primarily to her – Sally undertook a decorating business, gilding her way through her client’s homes till they sparkled with delight. Sally was known for her keen eye and her appreciation for things of beauty in this world, a trait she employed both to improve the lives of others and to beautify her own home. Sally started this work as an interior decorator at Carty’s Furniture Store in downtown Frederick in the mid-1970s, and graduated into her own decorating business, Thomas Associates, into the 1980s.
In 1975, Sally, along with her husband, Charles, his brother, George, and George’s wife, Maureen, came together to purchase the Thomas family’s small fish hatchery, and, introducing an emphasis on waterlilies and gardening, began transforming it into the water gardening giant known as Lilypons Water Gardens. One of the major contributing factors to this delicate process was the arrangement of the catalogue, which Sally, armed with vision and determination, undertook.
In the 1980s, the process was long, arduous, and painstaking, involving carefully cutting out images and text, and meticulously arranging each in its desired order, like a mosaic: a process which would be begun again for every single page. Sally’s efforts paid off. Her stunning catalogue caught the eye and soon Lilypons was the nation’s leading water gardening business. Their new project was off with a boom. Charles served as Lilypons’ President from September 1, 1975, until his retirement on December 31, 1998.
In the 1980s and into the ‘90s, being lovers of art, and seeing a need in the Frederick community for a permanent and dedicated art center, Charles and Sally became instrumental in the conceiving and bringing to fruition of The Delaplaine Center for the Arts.
With Charles’ retirement at the end of the ‘90s, the couple moved to Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, where they would live out the rest of their lives in a glorious, turn-of-the-century home which had originally been built as the summer house of a Japanese Ambassador. There, the couple quickly stepped into their familiar roles as pillars of the community, and also began to focus on the task of helping their four daughters with the many grandchildren that were to follow.
Sally became deeply involved in the local churches, St. Rita’s in Blue Ridge Summit, and St. Mary’s in Hagerstown, into which she poured her time, energy, and service alongside Fathers Malagesi and Chiabelli. Sally was instrumental in organizing several activities and fundraisers, such as Lenten Dinners.
Meanwhile, Sally transformed magnificently from mother to grandmother, her warmth and vivacity enchanting her grandchildren. Both as a woman and as a mother (both grand and great), she was unforgettable. At once a force of nature and a loving, sentimental soul, she was gifted with a quick and creative mind as well as a happy and loyal heart.
Even the manner of her death became, in some ways, an open love letter to her beloved spouse, as she passed away from complications of pneumonia exactly three hundred and sixty days after Charles, and mere weeks before their sixtieth anniversary, following him, at last, to heaven where wedding bells now ring.
Sally is survived by her brother and sister-in-law, Ai and Ann Smith, as well as by her eldest daughter, Margaret Koogle, and husband, Tim, of Frederick, as well as their daughters, Caroline of Hagerstown and Annemarie of Baltimore; her second daughter, Virginia Crum, and husband, Chip, and their daughters Katherine and Alexandra of Frederick; her third daughter, Victoria Koogle, and husband, Richard, of Frederick, as well as their five children: Richard and his partner, Jen, of Frederick; Charles, his fiancée, Zoe, of York; Patrick and fiancée, Rachael, of Frederick; James, and Olivia of Frederick; her youngest daughter, Elizabeth Diaz, and her four sons, William, Alexander, Nicholas, and Joseph of Blue Ridge Summit. Sally also boasted four great-grandchildren at the time of her death: Richard’s children, Ella Castro of Greencastle, Richard and Isabella Koogle of Frederick; and Charles’ son, Archibald Koogle of York.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m., Friday, December 10, 2021 in St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 224 West Washington Street., Hagerstown, MD with the Rev. Ernest Cibelli officiating.
Burial will be in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Buckeystown, MD.
The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, in Grove-Bowersox Funeral Home, 50 S. Broad Street, Waynesboro.
Online condolences may be expressed at the funeral home’s website.