Freedom Rider Dies of Covid

Sally Jane Rowley, best friend & freedom rider memoriam

My best friend, Sally Jane Rowley died of Covid on May 14th. She was 88. She died in the facility where she lived, in Tucson, Arizona. The building was in lock-down, no family or friends were admitted, but Covid found its way in, via an employee who didn’t know she was ill. The virus infected employees and residents alike. Sally fought it off for a week before she succumbed.

Sally was a woman who lived by her principles. In 1961 Sally joined the Mississippi Freedom Rides. She was on the Greyhound bus from Nashville, Tennessee to Jackson Mississippi where she was arrested and sentenced to six months in Parchman State Penitentiary, for the crime of attempting to bring civil rights to the south.

Sally was a bold, compassionate, life-loving woman who stood by the principles of equal justice under the law for every American citizen, even at the cost of her own safety and freedom. When I asked her how she found the courage to be a Freedom Rider, she replied, “Given the injustice I saw happening in this country, how could I not?”


Sally Jane Rowley Freedom Rider

She went on to become a devoted partner to painter, Felix Pasilis and loving mother to her daughter, Sofie and son Oliver. We met and bonded as fellow San Francisco street artists during the summer of 1976. We were both only children. Sally became the big sister my mom forgot to give me. I will miss that woman for the remainder of my days.

–Dorothy Freed


  1. Hi Lynn…This is a beautiful tribute to your best friend.  I can tell how much you loved her and will miss her. Love and Hugs…Susan

  2. A sad story and one that must have been difficult to write – but a touching eulogy for a good friend. A story that could have, and still may, happen to any of us. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. So sorry for your loss–and oh, there have been so many in these last few months! Sometimes it feels as if the light were going out of the world.

  4. Thank you for sharing Sally’s life with us. The deaths from Covid-19 aren’t statistics. They are human beings with stories. They are human beings who were loved.

  5. She seemed a special human being, and her loss to the Covid virus tragic. Sorry for your loss.

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