Artist Sally Gifford O’Brien celebrated at Millbrook Library through September
A coloring book produced by Sally Gifford O’Brien delighted children in Millbrook many years ago with pictures to color of many of Millbrook’s well known buildings. Photo submitted

Artist Sally Gifford O’Brien celebrated at Millbrook Library through September

MILLBROOK — After what seems a very long time, the Millbrook Library has curated an art exhibit featuring beloved artist and children’s book creator Sally Gifford O’Brien, born in 1927 and now living in North Carolina. Closed due to COVID-19 for several months, the library opened a short time ago with restrictions, but also with several programs for their patrons using technology and common sense. The art exhibited, provided by the Millbrook Historical Society, is especially poignant as it reminds one of the good old days when life was simpler and much gentler.

The Millbrook Historical Society hasn’t met since February due to the pandemic, but partnered with the library to get this limited exhibit up and running. The year 2020 has been designated the “Year of Women’s Voices & Talents,” so it is entirely appropriate to honor one of Millbrook’s most talented and beloved citizens, Sally Gifford O’Brien, whom some affectionately refer to as “SOB.”

O’Brien was the artist who put together an amazing coloring book for children, featuring many of the special sites and buildings of Millbrook. She was a very talented painter, did wonderful sketches and was adept at needlepoint. But O’Brien’s story goes much deeper than her artistic talents, it’s also a story of someone who loved and did much for her community, and always with a laugh, a smile, or, as one person noted, “…with a twinkle in her eye.”

O’Brien was born and raised in Millbrook. Her father was Herman Gifford Sr., who purchased a lovely Federalist house and 108 acres of land on the Sharon Turnpike in 1924. Chester White farmed that land, it was a dairy farm for 50 years, well into the 1960s. O’Brien grew up there, and was a member of Lyall Memorial Federated Church, which still has pieces of her needlework on its walls.

Always community minded, she allowed the Boy Scouts from Millbrook Troop 31 to use her land for camping. She and her husband, Bill, then decided to sell their property in 1975 to the Cary Arboretum after building a new home on a different plot of land.

Along with some of her work, including some of her needlework on pillows and footstools, there are written testaments as to what O’Brien meant to so many people and the community as a whole. Said Fussy Prisco, a close friend, “She and Bill had the greatest parties; she was always welcoming to those who newly had moved into the community so that they would feel comfortable.” Prisco also spoke of O’Brien’s penchant for recycling, greeting cards, wrapping paper, clothing, things she found beautiful and for interacting with people of all ages.

Stan Morse, who took up drawing and sketching when in his 70s, said, “Sally is a very special human being.” They were fellow residents of Bennett Condos in Millbrook. Morse went on to add, “Sally was starting her transition to the Carolinas to live with her sister. She invited me over and encouraged me to take whatever artwork, books and materials of hers I wanted. It was so typically Sally, open and generous, to do so. Her words of encouragement were, and remain, well remembered.”

The exhibit will introduce O’Brien’s work to viewers not already familiar with it; it will also introduce O’Brien as a humorist, author, artist and most of all, a beloved member of the Millbrook community.

The exhibit will run through the end of September. For hours, requirements and other library programs and resources, go to www.millbrooklibrary.org or call 845-677-3611. 

For more information on the Millbrook Historical website, go to www.millbrookhistoricalsociety.org.

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