GORHAM – Sara “Sally” Curtis didn’t have a 9-to-5 job, but while she was raising her nine children, she found plenty to keep her busy.

When her first husband took over his family’s dairy farm, Mrs. Curtis helped harvest the produce, said her daughter Lisa Allen, and the children pitched in.

“We all did those jobs. All of us, nobody was exempt,” she said. “My mother was right there also, with us all the time.”

The farm had originally focused on dairy cows. When Mrs. Curtis and her first husband, Dewayn E. Shaw, took over in the 1960s, they expanded to produce mostly corn, potatoes and peas. The farm was a major supplier to grocers for years, Allen said.

After Mrs. Curtis’s death Tuesday at the age of 77, her son Daniel Shaw remembered her as “a hell of a gardener.”

“If she wasn’t gardening, she was cooking,” he said. “Most everything we ate, we grew.”

The family had a personal garden in addition to the farm. During the summer, Mrs. Curtis used fresh vegetables in their meals and canned enough produce to last the family through the winter, Allen said.

“She was what you would think of when you think about a mother in the 1950s,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Curtis cooked meals, including dessert, every night for the family and any of the children’s friends who stopped by. Her daughter said she required everyone to eat their meal before they could enjoy desserts she had baked.

“Home was her most important job, and that’s where she loved to be,” she said.

With her skill for sewing, Mrs. Curtis was also busy behind the sewing machine, making quilts for years. For each grandchild’s high school graduation, she made a quilt and had the entire family sign it.

A few of her 25 grandchildren have yet to graduate, but quilts are waiting for them, Allen said.

Mrs. Curtis made wedding quilts for her grandchildren who have married.

“She was quilting all the time. That was the thing she loved to do the most,” Allen said.

Mrs. Curtis tried her hand at braided rugs, wreaths from flowers that she dried, lampshades and knitting. Everyone in the family has a Christmas stocking that Mrs. Curtis knit, in various designs but all bearing the owner’s name.

With her children living in Gorham or in nearby towns, the family is very close, her son said.

“We get together for every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day and mother’s birthday,” he said. “She always had us over for our birthday, too.”

For each of their birthday dinners, Mrs. Curtis cooked a special meal. Her son said she always kept in mind what each of them enjoyed as children.

It was that special attention that made him feel like he was the favorite child.

“I’m pretty confident all the others would think” that they were the favorite, Shaw said. “She never had favorites. She always made you feel special.” 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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