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Sarah "Sally" Baldini

April 22, 1930 - March 18, 2020
Grand Rapids, MI

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St. Jude's Children's Hospital
01 St. Jude Place
Memphis, TN 38105
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Life Story / Obituary


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Sally Baldini lived her life to the fullest as a wonderful wife, mother, and grandmother. A fabulous painter, she taught advanced art classes as well as made many wonderful pieces of art over the years. Sally enjoyed any amount of time she was near water and savored the memories on their family houseboat and the time they spent together in Gulf Shores, Alabama. She modeled many small acts of sacrifice and great acts of love over the years. There is no doubt that she will be greatly missed by her loving family.

The year 1930 was significantly impacted by the effects of the Great Depression. American banks were still closed but there was a promise of a new election year awaiting. Sarah Ellen was born on April 22nd in Grand Rapids, Michigan to her loving parents, Thaddeus and Carrie (Frantz) Gavinski. Born one of four children, her birth brought great joy and happiness to the family home during tough economic times.

Sally’s parents were hard working people who taught her the value of an honest living at a young age. Her father worked as a cabinet maker in the fast growing furniture business and her mother worked at the Blythfield Country Club as a hostess in addition to her role as a homemaker. Sally lived a typical childhood of the times, attending elementary schools in the Northview School District. Growing up on the Grand River led to many days of swimming and boating with her brothers. Sally had an adventurous spirit and loved the outdoors. Her father later taught her how to shoot a gun and to hunt. Raised with the importance of family, Sally often enjoyed telling the story from her childhood when her grandfather lost his thumb to a hungry bear! She and her siblings shared many special memories together, especially the holiday seasons at their home on the river which served as the family gathering place for many years. As a young teen, she and her girlfriend shared the role of drum major in the high school band. Sally’s charming personality and smile caught the attention of Ernie Baldini who chose to play the tuba in the band just so he could be near her! By the time she graduated from Catholic Central High School, they were well-known high school sweethearts!

Ernie and Sally joined in marriage on October 7, 1950 at St. Jude’s Church. Sharing many commonalities, they lived a faithful marriage and together raised a family of four wonderful children; Michael, Laura, Steven (Ric), and Jayme. She and Ernie shared with their children their love of the river and purchased a houseboat where many of their summer days were spent on the Muskegon River near the Hardy Dam. The shoreline of the Muskegon River is where her family shared the best of memories. Her brothers also owned boats and eventually bought homes along the river. Sally and Ernie carried on the tradition of hosting the large family gathering at their home once her parents had passed away. Exceptionally close, they shared laughter and love each and every time they were together. Their home was always a welcoming place where guests were treated like family. Holidays were always known to be a highlight with plenty of food and fun to last long into the evening hours. They raised their children with a strong foundation of faith and were active members of St. Jude’s Catholic Church on 4 Mile for many years. She and Ernie were members of the theatre club at St. Jude and performed in a number of productions. Her children were her number one priority and they never questioned the immense love she had for each of them.

During her life, Sally shared many special pastimes. She was a fantastic cook and learned to make Italian dishes from her father-in-laws’ special recipe (Italian meatloaf was a favorite of the family). Sally was also an avid reader and enjoyed a wide variety of authors. She and Ernie loved to square dance, and Sally made their matching outfits. In addition to her artistic talents and knowledge of watercolor, she had a real knack for color schemes and often helped Ernie with his stained glass designs over the years. When they entered into their later years, they spent their winters along the shores of the beautiful Orange Beach in Alabama. Leaving Michigan just after sharing the Christmas season, they rented a condo with enough space for their children and grandchildren to visit. Once the weather was warm enough for boating season, they returned to enjoy time on the water with their family. Later, they sold their houseboat to one of their grandchildren. Today, Michael and Laurie and all of their children have houseboats together on the Muskegon River, a legacy she and Ernie started so many years ago! Known for her calming presence and her graciousness as a host, Sally leaves behind a wonderful collection of memories for her family to cherish forever. May her memories be eternal and may her loving presence shine brightly each and every time they gather together.

Sarah “Sally” Baldini, age 89, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, passed away peacefully on March 18, 2020 with her loving husband of 69 years, Ernest, by her side. Sally will be remembered as a loving wife and caring mother/grandmother/great-grandmother who was always there for her family. She was an exceptional artist and loved spending time teaching others the art of watercolor painting. Sally was preceded in death by her brother, Richard Gavin and sister, Mary Lou Loranger. She is survived by her children, Michael and Janice Baldini, Laurie and William Walton, Ric and Deborah Baldini and Jayme and Dennis Levin; 9 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; brother, Frank Roman Gavinski; and several nieces and nephews. Private family visitation will take place with entombment in Resurrection Cemetery. A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at a later date. Contributions in Sally’s memory may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to submit a favorite memory, photo, or to sign the guestbook.