Obituaries » Abigail Sawyer (Murray)
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January 28, 1939 - February 29, 2020
Abigail (Murray) Sawyer, 81, of Chicopee, passed away on February 29. Born in Manhattan on January 28, 1939, Abby was the daughter of the late Charles and Vieno (Waaranen) Murray. After moving from New York to Burlington, Vermont, the Murrays relocated to Chicopee in 1943 where her father had accepted a position as USO Director and later became Executive Director of the Chicopee Community Center until 1976. Abby attended elementary school in Chicopee, later graduating from Chicopee High School. She received a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts and a Master’s in Education from American International College. In her forties, she returned to school, receiving a Master’s in Clinical Social Work from Smith College in 1985.
Following her graduation from UMASS in 1960, Abby obtained certification as a teacher for the visually impaired and began teaching at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA. In 1969, she was awarded a teaching exchange grant by the Fulbright-Hays Program. She and her daughter Lesleigh moved to Harlow, Essex, England where Abby taught at the Pear Tree Mead Primary School. Upon their return to the United States, Abby resumed her teaching career in Chicopee, where she taught elementary school. She later became a Special Education Chairperson and Counselor. Toward the end of her 38-year career with the Chicopee School System, she coordinated an anti-bullying program at Strieber School. After her retirement in 2004, she continued her work with children, accepting a position with River Valley Counseling Center as a part time school social worker.
Abby had contracted polio in 1942 and throughout her life struggled to negotiate the challenges of disability. She took great pleasure in reading, preparing delicious meals, and attending films and the opera. A trip to Scandinavia in 1967 kindled her love of travelling, whether to France, Greece or her beautiful cottage in Dexter, Maine. She enjoyed the beauties of her garden and the companionship of many fine cats. She loved her work with people and, encouraged by the model of her father’s commitment to helping others, she sought to make a positive difference in the world – even if it was just for one person.
Abby is survived by her best friend and helpmate, husband, David, cherished daughter, Lesleigh Brisson and many special cousins and in-laws. She is predeceased by her brother, Jonathan Murray. Family and friends may attend calling hours on Thursday, March 5, 2020 from 4 to 7 pm at the Cierpial Memorial Funeral Home on 69 East St. in Chicopee, with a Celebration of Life at 6:30pm. Her burial will be private at Fairview Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Dakin Humane Society, P.O. Box 6307 Springfield, MA 01101 and Friends of the Chicopee Library, 449 Front St. Chicopee, MA 01013.