Honoring Sallie Parks
Sallie Parks. Photo by Tampa Bay Magazine / Win Wolloff.
As we shape our memories of our beloved Sallie Parks, we think of her inspiring impact on our part of the world. Her golden touch will be felt for ages, as the different generations of today benefit from her recognition of the need and determination to act.
When Sallie glanced at you with those wedgwood blue shaded eyes and asked, “How will we have fun today?” she meant getting down to the business of making people’s lives better. To Sallie, fun signified community: the fellowship it offered, the leadership it required, and the assistance it demanded.
Of course, we wonder what drove this woman, donning the flower-rimmed hat many wouldn’t have the nerve to wear, to be so giving of herself. Sallie would tell you it was her strong moral compass and her belief in taking responsibility for people in need. She had a motto that explained her tenacity to make a difference, “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”
If Not Me, Then Who?
If Not Now, Then When?
In a meeting or one-on-one encounter, you wanted to listen to Sallie, even if what she said was not always easy to hear. It was always straight talk articulated to motivate you to join her in acting for the good of the community.
Sallie’s “if not me” mindset translated to 60 years of distinctive service to Pinellas County. At one time, she served on 13 different nonprofit boards, and she served on the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners for eight years.
Most notably, Sallie was the founder of Pace Center for Girls in Pinellas and the first executive director of Pinellas County Arts Council. Gov. Charlie Crist named Sallie as a Governor’s Point of Light in 2010. The Girl Scouts of West Central Florida named her as a Woman of Distinction in 2018, and the Clearwater Historical Society selected Sallie as one of the 2021 Women’s History Month Exhibit Honorees.
Professionally, Sallie directed public relations and marketing for Mease Health Care System, which included two hospitals and an 80-physician clinic. Sallie also worked as a lobbyist and advocate for St. Petersburg College until 2003.
Few people knew Sallie was individually responsible for bringing “Silver Alerts” to Florida. Incensed by a Largo woman’s story of her elderly mother’s death after she drove into a canal, Sallie was determined to make sure such senseless deaths would be avoided in the future. She appealed to Governor Crist to sign an executive order implementing the lifesaving Silver Alert program in Florida. To date, 286 Florida senior citizens have been saved by this program.
If you were fortunate enough to be Sallie’s personal friend, you were witness to her energy and compassion for people. Sallie made a vow to herself to meet five new people every day. Worldwide travel, her true love, bolstered this commitment.
Sallie traveled as easily and as often as most people surf the internet. Over her lifetime, she visited 70 countries and all continents, immersing herself in the local arts, culture, cuisine, and most importantly, the people. She was seriously a one-woman United Nations.
About 35 years ago, Sallie lived in Japan for a year and a half. While there, she met her second husband, the Rev. Dr. Alden Matthews. It was a fairy tale in which they lived in harmony for over 24 years. Together, they relished their family of five daughters, one son, 11 grandchildren, Sallie’s sister and two nieces, and numerous lifelong friends.
Sallie was a devoted friend of Pinellas Community Foundation (PCF), on the Board of Governors for 12 years and serving as chair for two separate stints. Right before the pandemic, Sallie finished her board term, but her service continued. At her last board meeting, typical Sallie told us, “I’m still here to help.” When PCF was chosen to manage $30 million in federal COVID support funds earmarked for Pinellas nonprofit organizations, Sallie immediately stepped in to serve as the chairperson for the committees and administer weekly grant-approval meetings.
We welcome your contribution to the Sallie Parks Memorial Fund as a way to honor Sallie’s life and legacy and to celebrate her decades-long commitment of service to our community.
Sallie, go in peace, knowing you made a difference.
Sallie Parks’ Resume of Community Involvement and Recognition
- Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners – 8 years, Chair (2 terms)
- Pinellas Community Foundation – 12 years, Chair (2 terms)
- 211 Tampa Bay Cares – Member, Vice Chair, Chair, Governance Committee appointment
- American Heart Association – President
- Area Agency on Aging Pinellas-Pasco – President (4 terms)
- Clearwater Arts Alliance – Vice Chair
- Clothes to Kids
- Dunedin Fine Arts Center
- Department of Juvenile Justice District V, Pioneering Chairman & Co-Chairman
- Junior League of Clearwater-Dunedin
- Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas
- Kathleen Monahan Foundation Fund – Trustee, Officer
- League of Women Voters – President
- Mease Manor – Trustee, President
- Palm Harbor Historical Society – President, Strategic Planning Committee appointment
- Pinellas-Anclote Basin – 4 years, member and Co-Chair
- Pinellas Charter Review Commission, Vice Chair, 1998
- Pinellas County Arts Council – First Executive Director
- Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, 6 years, Member and Chair
- Philanthropic Education Organization – Chapter FO, President
- Pinellas Convention and Visitors Bureau
- Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority Rotary Club of Dunedin – President
- Southwest Florida Water Management District (18 county) – Executive Member
- Tampa Bay Estuary Program
- Tampa Bay Water WorkNet Pinellas
- The Rotary Club of Dunedin Foundation
- The Rotary Club of Dunedin – President 2003-2004
- Governors Point of Light Award 2010 awarded by Gov. Charlie Crist
- Clearwater Historical Society Women’s History Month Exhibit Honoree 2021
- Pace Center for Girls Pinellas Lifetime Achievement Award 2021
- Leadership Pinellas Distinguished Alumni Award 1997
- Leadership Florida Alumna
- WorkNet Pinellas First Honorary Board Member
- Leadership Pinellas Appreciation, Mentor Program, 2019
- The Rotary Club of Dunedin, Community Service Award, 2016-2017
- Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award 2013
- Pinellas County Environmental Fund Advisory Board, Appreciation
- Rotary Alumni Association Service to Humanity Award 2014
- The Rotary Foundation District Service Award, 2010-2011
- Rotary International Four Avenues of Service Citation
- Southwest Florida Water Management District, Commendation, 2010
- American Heart Walk Award, raising nearly $100,000 in sponsorships, 2000
- Pace Center for Girls, Pinellas, Volunteer Recognition Award, 2000
- Greater Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce, Special Recognition, 2000
- NAMI Pinellas Iris Award 1999
- Department of Juvenile Justice, Special Recognition Award, 1998
- Sand Key Civic Association, leadership recognition, 1996
- Pinellas Planning Council Recognition 1971-1973
Honor the Life and Legacy of Sallie Parks
Your contribution to the Sallie Parks Memorial Fund will honor Sallie’s life and legacy and celebrate her decades-long commitment of service to our community.
Note: Check donations to the Sallie Parks Memorial Fund may be made payable to Pinellas Community Foundation, with “Sallie Parks” in the memo line. Mail to: Pinellas Community Foundation, 17755 US Highway 19 N, Ste 150, Clearwater, FL 33764
Questions may be directed to Leigh Davis, director of donor and advisor relations, at 727-306-3142 or via email.