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Sati Sil

January 8, 1942 - September 20, 2021

Sati  SilSati Sil (née Makhija) hailed from an upper-class Hindu family of traders from Shikarpur, Sind (in the present-day Islamic Republic of Pakistan) that settled in the city of Kolkata (the two other branches of the Makhijas settled in Bombay [now Mumbai] and Bangalore [now Bengaluru]). Her primary education was done at the popular English medium school MS B. Hartley’s and her secondary education at the Loreto School from where she passed the Senior Cambridge Examination. Sati’s first College diploma, Intermediate in Science, was obtained from the reputed all-girl Catholic institution of higher learning run by the nuns of the Loreto Convent. Thereafter, she finished her first undergraduate degree at the Presidency College obtaining a Second Class with a Star (somewhat similar to American “cum laude” in status). A bright student par excellence, Sati enrolled for her Master’s in Zoology at the same college, and earned a First Class, ranking second in order of merit at the University of Calcutta. She would collect two more Master’s—in Biology (with Honors) and in Education (Curriculum & Instruction)—from the University of Oregon following her relocation, along with her family, from Ethiopia to the United States. She was inspired to settle in Oregon by her maternal uncle, the renowned Director of Research and Training at the Salem Hospital Dr. Narain Jetmalani.
More than winning laurels in studies and exams, Sati was a deep-thinking and innovative teacher and activist. In 1999—Sati’s wonder year [annus mirabilis]—she garnered three professional recognitions: The Dorothy Patch Community and Educational Achievement Award from the Salem City Council; Certificate of Accomplishment from Chemeketa Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, Salem, Oregon; and from the Salem-Keizer school District’s [SKSD] prestigious Crystal Apple award for teaching. An avid reader, she belonged to the Salem book group of a number of university professors, high school teachers, journalists, lawyers, among others. She was a member of American Association of University of Women.

Sati was a forceful and persuasive speaker combining eloquence with erudition and instilled in her students the virtues of engagé citizenship. Her extraordinary forensic skill won for her pioneering wetland project at McKay High viability, patronage, and recognition. Consequently, she received the Susan Gleason Award from Salem Schools Foundation in 1995. In 2000, she was honored with a Certificate of Accomplishment by a special pin designating her as “Master Watershed Steward Marion County” (2000). She also received recognition “For Outstanding Accomplishments in the Conservation of Soil, Water and Related Resources” by Marion Soil and Water Conservation District (undated but c. 2002). Even after her retirement from SKSD in 2007 and especially following diagnosis of her terminal lung disease IPF and relocation to Capital Manor in April 2015, she accepted the invitation from Willamette University to present a talk on “Bridging Differences: Resolution through Evolution rather than Revolution” (September 22, 2015). Her lecture was widely appreciated and admired.

Toward the end of her colorful and triumphant life, Sati revived her long postponed youthful interest in painting and produced a series of amazing creations on the theme of environment and birds scheduled for exhibition by her retirement community Capital Manor later this year. Sati’s artistic temperament chimed with her peripatetic predilection. She loved to travel and she did it with diligence and panache. Besides moving to Ethiopia, Nigeria (where she also worked and lived for a extended period of time), she visited All the major cities of the British Isles, Western and Central Europe, Morocco, Spain (twice) and Portugal and the European section of Turkey. Her much desired travel to the celebrated Greek island Santorini had to be canceled following her biopsy in December 2014.
In domestic sphere Sati was the queen of culinary art both North Indian and East Indian (Bengali) delicacy and both vegetarian and non-vegetarian (fish, lamb, turkey, and chicken). Her innovative use of various spices charmed the palate of Indian, Ethiopian, Nigerian, British, Irish, Italian, French, American friends, associates, and guests. A magnificent hostess, she captivated the attention and elicited the admiration of her guests with her charming and witty conversation and colorful and tasty cuisine. However, the greatest sources of her joy and pride were her husband Professor Ram (Narasingha) Sil and their brilliant and beautiful daughter Dr. Jayashree Sil.

Above all, Sati was a decent human being—bright and beautiful (a rare combination) who loved birds, butterflies, and humans, and who never bent to despair or defeats, but always nurtured hope even in the face of imminent disaster. Her life-sustaining mantra was the hallowed Greek adage come down to us via the Latin prose of Cicero: dum spiro, spero—“while I breathe, I hope.”

In her passing, the earth lost a jewel, but the heavens gained a star.

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