Video of the Slide Show from Sally's Memorial Service

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Sally Out"

Sarah (Sally) Wheatland Richards, marine biologist and long time resident of Guilford and wherever her sailboat happened to be moored, died at home on Sunday, April 3rd surrounded by her family. She was 85.

Sally, born in Boston, MA in 1925, was the second of four children of Stephen and Dorothy Wheatland. Sally earned a B.S. from Vassar College in 1946 and a Masters in Zoology from Stanford University in 1948. She practiced marine biology for the next 50 years focusing on estuarine fish, shellfish and birds, eventually running the locally renowned "Little Harbor Lab" out of her Guilford home.

She devoted much of her time to local and regional conservation efforts, including the Guilford Land Conservation Trust of which she was a founding member, the Guilford Shellfish Commission, Faulkner’s Island Light Brigade, the U.S.Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Nature Conservancy. From an early age she was a passionate supporter of the Democratic party and its candidates.

Sally and her husband, the late Frederic M. Richards, whom she met while both worked at Yale University in the 1950's, were avid sailors, spending many summers in the high latitudes of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on their boat, Hekla. The couple also crossed the Atlantic via Iceland under sail and were life time members of the Cruising Club of America.

She was preceded in death by her brother, Richard Wheatland, II of Boston, MA and leaves her sisters Mary Schley, of Columbus, GA, and Alice Wellman, of Bangor, ME, her son George H. Richards, of Fairfield, CT, two step-daughters Sarah O. Richards, of Coupeville, WA, and Ruth Richards, of Cabot, VT, three grandchildren, one step-grandson, and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 2 pm on Tuesday, April 26th at the First Congregational Church of Guilford. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to the Guilford Land Conservation Trust, P.O. Box 200, Guilford, CT 06437, Faulkner's Island Light Brigade, P.O. Box 444, Guilford, Connecticut 06437, (203) 453-8400, or the CT Challenge, P.O. Box 566, Southport, CT 06890. In her memorable words that many friends and family heard on their message machines, "Sally Out".


  1. A Great Mentor

    In 1979, I entered Guilford High School as a young, skinny, and admittedly geeky sophomore transplant. That year, however, I had the opportunity to take a marine biology course taught by Dan Cinotti and a guest teacher by the name of “Mrs. Richards.” What luck! After all, like many kids, I had always wanted to be a marine biologist. As I soon found out, for “Mrs. Richards,” the classroom was not the place where kids learned about marine biology. Learning was best done hauling in a net from the deck of Ammodytes, or walking around barefoot on the shore of Hall’s Island, or in rubber boots with your pants rolled up, turning over rocks and observing nature the way it really is. With her constantly challenging the class, it wasn’t long before I knew the difference between Fucus vesiculosus and Chondrus crispus and Ovalipes ocellatus and Carcinus maenas. Believe it or not, more than thirty years later, I can probably still rattle off the scientific names of 20 or 30 plants and animals that reside in Long Island Sound!

    As that class came to an end, my relationship with “Mrs. Richards” did not. Somewhere during my junior year of high school, “Mrs. Richards” became just “Sally” and Dr. Richards became just “Fred.” Sally had become my mentor, nudging me to undertake research projects and getting me to think critically about how the natural world worked. Under her guidance, I spent night after night in the lab downstairs tediously sorting through and measuring preserved caprellid amphipods that she had helped me collect for my very first research project. I did all of this often while Sally and Fred entertained upstairs (as they were well known to do!). Sally encouraged me to work through my samples at any time, because, as we all know, the Richards’ home had an open door policy.

    With that project behind me, Sally saw a new opportunity for me - The Falkner Island Tern Project. For four summers, Sally and Little Harbor Lab provided me with an opportunity to spend countless days and nights living without electricity (except a marine radio powered by an automobile battery), eating hundreds of cans of Spam, hash, corned beef, Dinty Moore beef stew, Veg-All (yes, that Veg-All.. remember the can of square corn, square peas, square beans, and square carrots) and making do with a pit and a toilet seat on a piece of plywood that served as a makeshift “head.” After all, Sally was, if anything else, practical. All of this we did in the company of thousands of raucous terns that didn’t think twice about piercing the skin on your head with their beak or defecating on your sunburned back. Now that was real field biology! That was the type of real learning experience that Sally offered those who showed an interest.

    Sally’s mentoring and encouragement guided me towards pursuing advance degrees in biology. Because of her, I have had opportunities other scientists could only hope to have. I am where I am because of her influence. It is rare when one can look back on their life and be able to point to a single person who, above all others, shaped their future, guided their career, and helped make them who they are today. I am privileged to have had Sally as a mentor and friend. Thank you, Sally.

    -Bill Schew

  2. Hello,

    My name is Greg Mouning and I along with my mom Thelma attended the Memorial Service for Mrs. Richards on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at the Guilford First Congregational Church. I wish to share some photos I took during the reception with the Richards family. I would like to request my e-mail address ( be sent to George Richards so that I may share these photos with he and his family.

    With appreciation,
    Greg Mouning