By Sabin Russell
Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch
WHEN SALLY REIQUAM was a little girl growing up in a small town in Illinois, she would listen to the train whistles in the night and think, "Someday, I'm going places."
Over the course of a busy life dedicated to raising three children, Reiquam has toured every continent — including Antarctica — and lived in five states and two countries. But her eyes brighten most when she thinks of her home base, Seattle, where every Monday she volunteers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She has been doing so since 1994, the year her husband, Howard, died of prostate cancer, shortly after the couple had moved back to Seattle.
At the Hutch, Reiquam sits in a cubicle lined with postcards that she and other volunteers have sent from abroad. There are no computers on this desk, just a peace lily, neat piles of envelopes and note cards, and a clickable ballpoint pen.
Each Fred Hutch note card will notify a recipient of a donation made in their name or that of a person they know — often to remember a loved one, to honor a caregiver, or to celebrate a birthday with a gift to a cause held dear. At the age of 83, Reiquam still wields the power of good penmanship, writing each name in careful cursive.
"It's so much nicer to receive a handwritten note," she said. "The Hutch wants to be part of people's lives."
While Reiquam has been writing Fred Hutch notes for 22 years, her contributions go back further, sprung from heartbreak. In 1975, while living in El Paso, Texas, she and her husband lost their 15-year-old daughter Jennie to brain cancer. Jennie had her own savings account, and her family decided to send that money to Fred Hutch in Seattle, where they knew they would someday return. "We heard that Fred Hutch had opened,'' Reiquam recalled, "and that was our opening."
The gifts never stopped. Reiquam has given regularly for more than 40 years, and for her monthly contributions she became a Sustaining Partner in 2004. She also is a member of the Thomas Legacy Society, having arranged a gift annuity that generates income for her and supports Fred Hutch research in the future. "I'm not wealthy, but I'm comfortable," she said. "If I needed the money, I could take it, but I've never needed it. So I give it back to the Hutch."
With the same consistency that marks her weekly volunteer shifts and her monthly donations, Reiquam still makes annual overseas trips part of her routine. Next on the list: a cruise to the Panama Canal. But she is always happy to return. "The saltwater, the mountains, the greenery … I love Seattle," she said.