Sarah Lois Gregg

Sarah Lois Gregg, our mother, violinist, teacher of music, and friend to many, died peacefully on August 11th, 2018 just shy of her 96th birthday. She was born on September 8th, 1922 in Fall River, Massachusetts to Charles Abner Macomber and Ethel May Peckham, and was the youngest of four children in this stalwart New England family whose lineage traces back to Colonial America. Pre-deceased by her husband, Professor James H. Gregg, and her siblings, she is survived by a son Austin Gregg, daughter Cynthia Gregg, sister-in-law Janice Gregg, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Many interesting things about her life are noted in memoirs she penned some years ago. Fall River, situated on the steep banks of the Taunton River, was a prosperous textile mill town during her formative years in the early twentieth century. Sarah attended public schools beginning with primary education at the Spencer Borden School, then progressing to James Madison Morton Junior High School, to which she walked “rain, shine, snow, or sleet.” On June 28th, 1940 she graduated from B.M.C. Durfee High School, where she excelled at German and was a member of the Camera Club.
During her youth she spent many an idyllic summer on the Atlantic coast at Westport Harbor, where generations of her family had farmed the land. This early part of her life was also punctuated by annual steamship excursions to New York City, where in 1935 Sarah, with her sister Virginia, had their photograph taken on the yet to be opened George Washington Bridge – one sister standing in New Jersey, the other in New York.
She attended the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, graduating in 1944 with a degree in German Studies but also achieving a minor in music, having studied with the renown violinist Ottokar Cadek. It was at college that Sarah met her husband to be, Jim Gregg. After graduating she travelled home to Fall River, but returned to Alabama early in 1945, marrying Jim on January 7th. They remained together for 52 years until his passing in 1997.
With her husband serving an infantryman in the European Theater of Operations, Sarah found employment at the War Department in Washington, D.C. as a Cryptanalytic Aide in the Army Security Agency. There she worked in the Japanese Attaché Section deciphering coded messages by programming IBM computers. In May of 1946 Jim returned from the war and matriculated at Princeton University. There Sarah worked as a librarian, dividing her time between the Physics Library at Fine Hall, and the Chemistry Library in the Frick Laboratory. In 1948 Jim took a post-doctoral position in Chicago, and Sarah found employment in the Research Department of the National Safety Council. Another post-doctoral engagement led to Vanderbilt University, and Sarah became the secretary of the Physics Department. Moving on from Nashville she arrived at Gainesville, Florida in September, 1951, where Jim had accepted a faculty position in the Department of Zoology.
She loved the out of doors, plants, flowers, nature, and the local artesian springs. Over the course of 59 years she landscaped her large yard with an intricate series of pathways interspersed with gardens filled with many different plant species, including locally rare wakerobin rescued from a development. She shared plants and lots of Satsuma oranges with many folks.
Of all her interests Sarah Gregg will likely be most remembered for her involvement with the violin. She learned to play at an early age after discovering her brother Bob’s violin in the attic of their Fall River home. Lessons began with one Mr. Shoob, and continued on with others into college. She was a first violinist at Morton Jr. High, and later played in the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. Sarah was a member of the University of Florida Symphony Orchestra for many years, and a frequent participant in the Brevard (N.C.) Music Camp where she served also as the music librarian. Chamber music created with good friends memorably resonated through her home. She tirelessly taught violin, viola, and cello to countless children in the Gainesville community. An adherent of the Suzuki method Sarah began by giving private lessons, then extended her skills to teach string class to students at Brentwood School, then Westwood, and Ft. Clarke Middle Schools. A woman of much compassion, she made it a point to bring her string classes to perform at local retirement homes.
Later in life she engaged in charity knitting, gathering weekly with a group of cherished friends at a local yarn shop. She created many mitts and hats that were donated to recipients at the VA Hospital and other organizations in need.
Sarah’s vivacious spirit, generosity, and strength of character will be greatly missed by all of us who knew and loved her.
In lieu of flowers please consider a gift in her name to the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute. A private celebration of her life will be planned for the near future. The family can be contacted at

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