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Farewell to a fan: Sallie Scott kept Elton John's music near as she battled cancer
A photographic tribute to the life of Missoula educator Sallie Scott was shown during a memorial service in her honor Friday afternoon at the University of Montana Ballroom. Scott died of cancer on June 5.
Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian

Sallie Scott died while listening to Elton John, who "wrote the soundtrack of her life."

Hers was a life filled, as one friend said, with "the essential ingredients of laughter, music, family, friends and glorious food to be shared."

More than 500 people - Scott's family, friends, teaching colleagues and former students - packed the University Center Ballroom on Friday to pay their last respects to a woman who drank deeply from the cup of life.

Scott, a longtime Missoula high school teacher at both Sentinel and Big Sky, and owner of The Learning Tree in Southgate Mall, died of cancer on June 5 at age 59.

Scott lived life with a profound love for music, for social justice, for friends and family, and always with the belief that life is a feast to be devoured daily.

"The song of Sallie's life was a sweet song, sung in harmony with her many friends," said Bill Lowney, a longtime friend.

She was a woman who loved tulips and chocolate, great literature and new shoes, who ran through life like a "supernova, a great white light," said Lowney.

Besides her family, friends and her teaching career, perhaps the only thing that Sallie loved more was music.

"She loved anything Motown, the Beatles, James Taylor, and of course, the man who wrote the soundtrack of her life, Elton John," said close friend Char Hay.

When Elton John first played in Missoula last year, the Missoulian fielded submissions to find out who was Missoula's biggest John fan.

Dozens of phone calls and

e-mails later, it was clear that person was Scott. The Missoulian featured her in a story under the headline, "No. 1 Rocket Man Fan." In that story, Scott revealed that it was Elton John's music that comforted her when she first went into surgery for her then-in-remission cancer, which ultimately returned and claimed her life.

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At Friday's memorial service, Elton John again provided the soundtrack for Scott, this time accompanying a retrospective slide show of Scott's life, her beaming smile and sharp eyes filling a large screen in the ballroom. As John's "Your Song" played, Scott's friends and family wiped tears and laughed out loud.

Her oldest son, Christian Scott, said it was a celebration that his mother would have loved.

"We've got music, we've got food and we've got Elton John," he said. "She wouldn't miss it for the world."

A deeply spiritual person, Scott remained brave until her final days, never feeling sorry for herself and always with the attitude that life is a gift, and that every human is divine.

Said her friend Frank Matule, a spiritual mentor to Scott and former pastor at Christ the King Church: "Sallie believed with great passion that every human being who has ever lived, and every human who is alive today, has a divine spark, and that the universe is God's body."

Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at

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