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Friends and colleagues of longtime Book Industry Study Group board member Sally Dedecker gathered on February 1, 2018 to warmly rekindle her spirit, at an event organized by her friends Dominique Raccah and Carol Fitzgerald and hosted by her Book Expo colleagues Andrew Esposito and Brien McDonald.
More than 30 industry influencers from the American Booksellers Association, Book Industry Study Group, Bowker, Overdrive, Publishers Marketplace, Publishers Weekly and other organizations joined Sally’s brother and sister-in-law and several close friends in the cozy wood-lined wine reserve at The Black Barn in New York City. Their remembrances encompassed Sally’s years as a Book Industry Study Group board member, as Book Expo’s Director of Programming, and as a strategic consultant to publishers, as well as her roots in bookselling and in sales marketing at NAL, Simon & Schuster and Ingram.
Many saluted the depth of Sally’s book industry knowledge and the breadth of her rolodex, her skill and dedication as a problem-solver, and the joy she found in bringing people together and in driving initiatives forward. Yet as people kept stepping up to speak, what became even more salient was the wide range of men and women who deeply cherished Sally as a funny, blunt and wise friend, who was always ready for a laugh, and could always put her finger on what mattered most.
American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher praised Sally for her ability to step forward when conversations became tense, and to create a bridge that enabled everyone at the table to come to an understanding. “When anyone needed someone to get something done, Sally was that go-to person. She knew everyone, and always knew the right person to call at the right time. She was extraordinary, and we’ll miss her a lot.”
Sally’s brother George Dedecker emphasized how surprised and overwhelmed his sister had been when BISG awarded her a Lifetime Service Award in 2017 for her “tireless and persistent” and “often unseen” efforts for 22 years.
“We wanted to thank her for her incredible contributions,” responded Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah, who originally approached BISG Director Brian O’Leary about the award. “You would leave a meeting with her and have an incredibly long list of deliverables and no idea how you got that list. She was always creating something so much larger than you envisioned at the outset.” O’Leary acknowledged that it hadn’t been easy to surprise Sally with the award, since she always had her ear to the ground. Yet “the chance to recognize someone who truly gave to BISG makes my job worthwhile. We wouldn’t be the organization we are today without Sally,” he said.
Carol Fitzgerald, founder of TheBookReportNetwork.com, who served with Sally as a Book Expo advisory board member, marveled at the fine balance of empathy, toughness and support Sally offered her friends and colleagues, and her habit of putting others first. “She would tell me when an idea was not solid. She would come back to me with suggestions, even months later as a project evolved. She would cheer accomplishments and send lovely notes,” Fitzgerald said. Even during Sally’s final illness, “her goal was to get to medical appointments without dropping a call.”
Other speakers, including Overdrive business development executive Steven Rosato, independent consultant Seth Gershel, and IDPF conference organizer Wendy Erman Wels, elaborated on the idea that Sally’s open ear, big heart and high standards “made us better people.”
Independent book publicist Susannah Greenberg, who knew Sally for 30 years, spoke of a visit last summer to Sally’s house in Catskill, NY, where she had been living alone since the 2014 death of Mike Reed, her husband of 27 years. “She lived in a idyllic place. We sat on her front porch and she didn’t talk about her illness. We talked about the flowers, the weather and the trees.”
Sally’s longtime BISG colleague Peter Balis -- who bonded with Sally over their shared frustration with a Catskills grocery store they both frequented -- saluted Sally with a reading from the Book of Proverbs, verse 31. “Translated it means a Woman of Valor or a Woman of Strength,” Balis said. “In many Jewish families, we read these words when a great woman leaves our lives.”
A Woman of Valor
A good woman, so hard to find
She is more precious than rubies
Her circle cast with friendships deep,
Full of love and graceful ease–
She is a woman of valor.
She opens her hands to the poor
She does not fear the other,
Extends her heart to those in need,
Encourages her friends to succeed–
She is a woman of valor.
Praise her, love her, hold her with your eyes
Be the safety that she needs to unlock all that she can be