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Orono conservationist, advocate of outdoors loses battle with cancer

Sharon Kiley Mack | BDN
Sharon Kiley Mack | BDN
Sally Jacobs, who worked on the rails-to-trails project for the Sunrise Trail Coalition for 20 years, was the first to ride her bicycle on the Down East Sunrise Trail at Machias after a formal ribbon cutting. The multi-use trail runs 32 miles from Machias to Pembroke. Jacobs died after a battle with cancer on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Orono Land Trust founder and conservation and recreation stalwart Sally Jacobs passed away Nov. 12 after a bout with cancer.

Friends and colleagues said Wednesday that Jacobs tirelessly worked to make sure Mainers could enjoy nature and all the opportunities it offers.

Her most recent “dream-come-true” came in 2009, when she pedaled her bicycle down the newly opened Down East Sunrise Trail shouting, “WAHOO!” The avid bicyclist and lover of the outdoors was the founding president of the Sunrise Trail Coalition, 85 miles of trails on a rail-banked corridor running from Ellsworth to Calais.

Jacobs, who moved to Orono in 1963 with her family, taught biochemistry at the University of Maine for 35 years. She was a camp counselor, swim instructor, gardener, paddler and pedaler, according to her obituary, which appeared in Wednesday’s Bangor Daily News.

“She was always an outdoor person,” said friend and Orono Land Trust colleague Jerry Longcore.

In 1975, she began her long, hard-fought efforts to establish biking trails in Maine. She helped procure funding for bike trails connecting Orono, Old Town and the University of Maine in hopes of “getting people up off their duffs and riding to school,” Longcore said.

In 1986, she founded the Orono Land Trust, an organization that went on to acquire and protect nearly 1,000 acres of land, including 300 acres owned by the trust plus nine conservation easements and eight trail easements, according to the trust’s website.

Her love of the outdoors turned her into a solid athlete, both on land and in the water, where she proved to be a strong swimmer. That helped her save the life of a young man from drowning in the Penobscot River in 1987, an act that prompted the Orono police and fire departments to award her for “heroism exhibited in saving a life.”

Longcore recalled a memory from about a year ago, when Jacobs called him to see if he wanted to go ice skating. Longcore had a lot of work to do, so he was hesitant, but Jacobs was always persuasive. Around that time, Jacobs had learned she had cancer and was preparing to travel to North Carolina for treatment, according to Longcore, who decided to tag along on the skating trip.

“It turned out to be the last skating she ever did,” he said, adding that her smile and passion for the outdoors accomplished a lot.

Jim Hinds, current president of the Orono Land Trust, said Jacobs remained an active member of the board throughout her illness. The organization recognized her in October with a memorial plaque at the Piney Knoll conservation area, a 57-acre parcel along the Penobscot River.

“Right to the end, she was still smiling,” Longcore said.

Friends are invited to a gathering with family from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Brookings-Smith Orono Chapel at 72 Main St., according to her obituary. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Church of Universal Fellowship, 82 Main St. in Orono. A reception will be held after the service in the church vestry.

Donations in Jacobs’ honor may be made to the Orono Land Trust at www.oronolandtrust.org or New Hope Hospice Memorial Fund at www.newhopehospice.org/donate.

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