Neighbors Magazines

Old school locals embrace community values

Sally and Torch Elliot’s dedication to community service and hospitality has created lasting connections in Park City

By: Julie Hooker, Neighbors of Park City

In 1961, Sally’s buddy, Marsha (who also happened to be Torch’s cousin), introduced them. Their dormitories shared a cafeteria, and they often shared meals. While waiting for supper, they played bridge. At 20, Torch was too young to buy beer, but in Oklahoma, women could buy beer at any age, so Sally paid the tab, and the pair shared a drink at the Canadian River bottom. 

Sally and Torch were, and remain, best friends. 

After Torch’s first tour of duty in Vietnam, they married in 1967, making their love and friendship permanent. Torch then served a second tour from 1969-1970. Service. Loyalty. Patriotism. These qualities are woven into the very fabric of what makes, and has made, Sally and Torch Elliot’s family, professional, and community lives.

Torch’s third great-grandfather, Thomas DeRussy, was a French naval officer recruited by Benjamin Franklin to fight in the Revolutionary War. Years later, a grateful nation gave his sons appointments at the fledgling United States Military Academy at West Point. Members of Torch’s family served in the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.

Photo: Dana Klein // Dana Klein Creative

Torch’s mother, Polly, married Charles B. Elliott, Jr., also a West Point graduate. Sally calls it “a fortunately ironic twist of fate” that Torch, with his French heritage, failed French and left West Point to join ROTC at the University of Oklahoma. As noted, it was in the dormitory cafeterias that Sally and Torch met. Torch’s failing French got him to Sally and, ultimately, the Elliott Family to Park City.

In 1986, Torch retired from the Army with a Master’s degree in Guided Missiles Systems Engineering, wanting to earn his Ph.D and teach – the same year Chip, their son, started at West Point. Of their other children? Sally explains, “Our daughters, Libby and Cat, wanted to be on the best junior racing team in the nation, so logically, we ended up in Park City, where everyone could make their dreams come true.”

When the family arrived in Park City, Sally was immediately adopted by several mining-era residents, including Nan McPolin, Bea Kummer, Loran Larson, and Jim Ivers. They welcomed the Elliotts and explained the history, sense of community, local pride, and camaraderie that connect Park City. Those “old-timers” knew that Sally would perpetuate their values and tell their stories. They knew that, even as a new arrival, Sally was a “local.”

For Sally, this camaraderie and community made her feel at home and welcome. “It’s natural to pay that debt forward in the hope that it will infect others with the same hospitality,” says Sally. “Community service is a great way to become involved in a new home – and we had many new homes in 23 years of military service.”

The most gracious of hosts, Sally and Torch frequently entertain. If their walls could talk, they would share stories about open space, preservation, and community. Sally and Torch taught their neighbors, their friends, their colleagues, and the community how to disagree without being disagreeable.

Raised by parents who entertained prolifically (and expected to entertain in the military), Sally and Torch found that it came naturally to both of them. Sally shares, “It’s rather intuitive that people who sit together at the table and share food and conversation become convivial. We always entertained as an opportunity to bring people together. It works particularly well when there’s a community problem to be solved.”

Photo: Dana Klein // Dana Klein Creative

As a sociologist, Sally understands the strength of community institutions and gravitates toward service. Both Sally and Torch look for opportunities to include those who are excluded and make a place for everyone. They thrive on traveling the country to visit their children, grandchildren, and even a great-grandchild. However, nothing makes them happier than having the tribe home to ski and hike.“Our son, Chip, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel. Chip taught chemistry at West Point and has a Ph.D in Environmental Engineering.  He and his wife Debbi have three children and our first great-grandchild, Cash.”

She continues, “Our daughter, Libby, is a Pediatric Anaesthesiologist in Wilmington, Delaware.  She has two children.” And, finishing the family tree is “our youngest, Catherine. She is an attorney in Seattle with two sons.”

Locally, the Elliotts love to eat at Sammy’s Bistro and Cortona. Sally explains, “They are owned by neighbors, and we end up there most often.” Of course, as long time locals, their favorite bar is The Alamo – known today as No Name Saloon. For Sally, just pour scotch and water – no ice.

Locals since the ’80s, Sally and Torch have their favorites. For a hike, “We love the Rail Trail. Our first house in Park City was adjacent to the railroad and we got to see the trains on the track, just 20 yards behind our house, before it was abandoned.”  

In the winter, you can find the Elliotts on Keystone and Hoist at Park City Mountain. Also, every February, you’ll see Sally and Torch ripping up the dance floor at the Park City High School Jazz Band’s Sweetheart Gala. According to the Elliotts, “We love to dance, and it’s important to support our young friends in their school activities.  The jazz band is phenomenal, and the Sweetheart Gala is a great fundraising party.”

Crossing generations, sharing values, and creating community – Sally and Torch do it all with big, bright smiles and ongoing love. “We are still best friends and enjoy our times together,” says Sally, “We love friends, family, community, and happy times. Torch smiles when his former students appear as successful engineers. I smile when young people and community newcomers step up and take on positions of leadership. It’s all about ‘paying it forward.’”

Practice loyalty. Serve. Be a part of the community. If you need a hand, ask Torch and Sally. Really. Just stop by. Sally will probably make some Pooh Dip and Pie while they make you feel at home.

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