MAURY THOMPSON Special for The Post-Star
The granddaughter of William Keeney Bixby, an early 20th-century icon who had a summer home on Millionaires’ Row along the shore of Lake George, made her own mark in journalism and writing, including a 2014 biography of his grandfather, who passed on his love of the Adirondacks.
Bolton Landing resident Sally Bixby Defty, who recently passed away, was a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and editor who was a pioneer among female journalists.
Long-time reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatchshe was promoted in 1976 to become the paper’s first female managing editor.
“She led with skill and grace, and always seemed amazed that others looked up to her as a role model. But, of course, there was no one like Sally,” said Margaret Freivogel, a former colleague from the Post-shipmentnow a sister newspaper of Lee Enterprises The Post Star. “In addition to her accomplishments, I remember her wry sense of humor. She once said someone told her that the key to success was good posture. She practiced it.
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Defty was a “true friend,” said Martha Shirk, another former Post-shipment coworker.
“For the young female reporters in the newsroom, she was a professional role model, demonstrating that you don’t have to outdo the men to be taken seriously,” Shirk said. “And the food on election nights, which were on-deck events, got a whole lot better when she became city editor. A former restaurateur, she replaced pizza with gourmet bites that she made herself.
Defty, who died June 29 at Elderwood Nursing Home in Ticonderoga, aged 89, had lived year-round in Bolton Landing for 14 years and was a lifelong summer resident before that.
She was a long-time member and active volunteer at the Sembrich Opera Museum in Bolton Landing.
“She always had a smile on her face and a story to share,” said Suzanna Bernd, the museum’s executive director. “She had an energy and a spirit that filled the room. She will be missed.
Glimpses of Defty’s early days can be found in the company news in the archives of The Post Star.
“Sally Bixby, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. WH Bixby of Bolton Landing, has left for a six-week summer tour of Europe with college friends”, The Post Star reported July 5, 1951. “Sally is in her third year at Vassar, where she was elected her dorm president this spring.”
She majored in art history and, after graduating, ran an art gallery for a time, among other jobs, before going into journalism.
On September 6, 1952, The Post Star reported, “Sally Bixby spent part of her summer vacation competing in the tennis tournament.”
The New York Times reported in 1956 her engagement to Eric Defty of London, England.
Annual pilgrimages to Bolton Landing continued into adulthood.
“She loved many things, but nothing more than Bolton Landing and Lake George,” said Robert Duffy, another former colleague of The Post-Shipment. “Every summer, rain or shine, she would cram her three kids and piles of luggage into a VW bus and off they went.”
Spending summers in the area was an extended family tradition, dating back to Bixby Defty’s grandparents, William Kenney and Lillian Tuttle Bixby, who owned a summer mansion at Mohican Point on Bolton Bay.
In 2012, she wrote and self-published “Passionate Pursuits: William Keeney Bixby – Industrialist, Collector, Philanthropist, Traveler”, a biography of her grandfather, who worked his way from baggage clerk to chef at the American Railcar and Foundry Co., before retiring at age 49 to pursue his passion for collecting rare manuscripts.
“He was St. Louis’s greatest cultural philanthropist and built an Adirondack home in 1902 that is still loved and used by his 270 descendants,” wrote Defty, who at the time was the last survivor of 21 grandchildren. .
Among other accolades, Bixby, the grandfather, financed Charles Lindbergh’s transcontinental flight, prompting the pilot to name his plane “Spirit of St. Louis” in Bixby’s honor.
In 1935, Bixby was one of three plaintiffs in a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to force the U.S. government to pay its obligations in gold.
He was vice-president of the Lake George Club and owned a luxurious Hacker-Craft boat, according to Post Star reports.
Defty, the granddaughter, started working at Post-shipment in 1965, under the women’s section, the Saint-Louis Journalism Review reported in an article from September 1, 1995.
She was promoted to city editor in 1976, but later returned to reporting because she lacked the art of storytelling.
Defty was part of the so-called “class of ’95” – a group of 15 Post-shipment newsroom employees who accepted early retirement buyouts that year.
Defty moved to Berlin, Germany, where his son lived, and for over a decade wrote travel articles and edited an architecture magazine before retiring to Bolton Landing.
She has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize several times, including once when she was a finalist for a series of articles she wrote about arson in the St. Louis area, according to a radio report. public of Saint-Louis on January 15. , 2014, when Defty was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame.