Words, Words, Words:  A Brief Sketch of Sally Piper, a Woman I Never Knew

Sally Piper was born in January, 1932, in Medford, MA.  Sally (Piper) (Newell) Hughes died May 3, 1965, in Lowell, MA, at the age of 33.  Sally Piper had diabetes mellitus and coronary thrombosis at her death.  Sally Piper had been graduated from an expensive private girls’ school and was very proud of a photograph of the mansion in which she was raised.  Sally Piper is buried in her family’s plot in Amherst, NH.

Sally Piper was married at least twice.  Sally Piper had four pregnancies.  It is unclear whether any of the pregnancies were the result of actions with a man she was married to at the time.  Sally Piper spent much of her adult life being monitored by social-service agency social workers who expressed negative opinions about her judgment and ability as a parent.

Sally Piper had a good vocabulary and excellent diction, according to one of those social workers.  Sally Piper took pride in the money her family had, and in the education that money had paid for.  Sally Piper apparently held one job as an adult, a clerical job she had for a brief time before being dismissed.  The reasons for this dismissal are unclear, as one report alludes to a diabetic “attack” and another to assaulting a coworker.

Sally Piper had one son, Richard, about seven, at her death.  Richard has been lost to history.  Sally Piper was married to Alva Hughes, not Richard’s father, at her death.  Alva Hughes has been lost to history.  It is unlikely Alva and Richard remained together after Sally Piper’s death, but who can tell?  Sally had been pregnant at least three other times. One pregnancy resulted in the live birth of a girl, released for adoption immediately, in June, 1962.   One pregnancy resulted in a stillborn girl in March, 1961. One pregnancy resulted in the live birth of a boy, released for adoption immediately, in November, 1958.

That last baby boy was me.

I was born Baby Boy Newell, and my original birth certificate records that.  It also records that Robert Newell, Sally Piper’s husband at the time, was the legal, but not natural father of the Baby Boy.  From social worker’s notes of the time, the unnamed natural father was selling magazines in Florida, having left the hotel and restaurant field.  The notes do not record that the natural father had been in hospitality management, nor that the magazine sales he was doing involved selling the publishing of magazines.  When I look in the mirror, I assume he was Caucasian, but who can tell? He is now doubly lost to history, having left no identifying information behind.  Except my DNA, of course.

But back to Sally Piper, who had a brother, a World War II combat pilot and the subject of a book-length biography.  I do not know if Sally Piper is mentioned in that biography, although the rest of her life suggests her family wanted little to do with her.  When Sally Piper was pregnant in 1958, living in Milford, NH, five miles away from her parents, her father did not know she was having a child, although she had mentioned it to her mother.  It is unclear if her father ever learned of the birth of Baby Boy Newell, of me.

When I prepared for life in the Tiny White Box, I got rid of almost all my physical possessions.  Furniture, shoes, books, electronics—all of it freed in a high tide of charity, with my daughters being the primary beachcombers.  I kept a folder of information about Sally Piper.

Words, words, words.


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