It’s not surprising that young Sally Kabel, known as ‘Sweet Sally Sunshine’ continues to inspire good will and compassion nearly a year after her death.
Sally died on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018 suddenly, following a nearly lifelong battle with leukemia and other complications. Her death not only devastated her heartbroken family but an entire community that had rallied behind her in her brave battle with cancer.
Fifth through eighth grade students from Lutheran Elementary School at 440 Ovington Avenue in Bay Ridge banded together to create three mural panels depicting things that meant something to Sally, such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, pizza and a yellow butterfly. They presented the murals to the community on a beautiful sunny Thursday in June.
“Sally had such a big impact on this neighborhood. She really brought people together like nobody else has, at least in the 15 years I’ve lived here,” her father Matt Kabel told this paper. “It’s heartwarming for our family to see people that don’t even have a direct connection with her are keeping her memory alive and everything that she stood for.”
St. Nicholas Home, a senior living facility located directly across from LES, offered to let the students paint the murals on the front of its historic horse stables. LES Principal Corinne Tuccillo King said she was very grateful to St. Nicholas for being willing to partner with the school and bring the murals to the community.
“When the students were talking about the message that they wanted from our school to our Bay Ridge community, the theme of love, joy and peace resonated with them and so many of them followed Sally’s journey and were touched by her passing and what she meant to the community,” King told this paper.
“They wanted to incorporate her life and make sure that in many ways her legacy lives on here on Ovington Avenue.”
The murals were designed by LES art teacher Sam Wisneski, who said he created the basic design of the murals in his classroom with the prevailing themes of love, joy and peace, all things Sally radiated. His hope was to present a work that people could walk by and admire.
“The students painted the entire piece with each section being a personal interpretation, and then framing those expressions as a colorful reminder of all the things that bring us love, pursuing joy or ultimately trying to find peace in this world,” explained Wisneski.
Matt Kabel called the students’ work heartwarming and a testament to Sally’s legacy. “She was the great uniter in Bay Ridge,” Kabel said. “It didn’t matter who you were, what your race was, what your political party was. None of it mattered and everyone came together.
And then when we get to see mementos like these come to life in our neighborhood, it’s hopefully a reminder to everybody that there’s more that unites us than divides us,” he added.