PITTSFIELD -- An acute sense of time -- its meaning, its passage, and the way our small place in it is marked by service to others -- surely informed Sarah "Sally" Bell's kindness and good cheer. Or maybe it was the other way around. Anyway, you'd be hard-pressed to find a person of any generation who gave of herself so freely, thoughtfully and generously.
All that, and she loved a laugh. As a town mother of sorts, she gave Ripton, Massachusetts (look it up) its name. She held opinions, to be sure, but for me at least it was impossible to extract from her anything stronger than polite disapproval when others misbehaved, whether it was a sneaky SOB on the other side of a deal, or Bobby Knight going through one of his boorish phases at Indiana University, her alma mater.
Her practice as an attorney undoubtedly paid a few bills, but one could be excused for believing that Sally may have taken up the law in order to make herself a more effective volunteer. She pursued her causes with dedication, intelligence and the enlightenment of one well-versed in history and the arts. She adored those colleagues whose commitment was, above all, to getting it right.
Her contributions to Berk shire land use and conservation towered over everything else. She helped found the Lenox Land Trust and the Massachusetts Outdoor Heri tage Foundation. She was an expert consultant on matters of planning and zoning, and served for many years as vice chairman of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commis sion. She habitually underbilled the Massachusetts Divi sion of Fisheries & Wildlife for legal services, and she did even better for the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, which she served with distinction as a director for nearly 20 years.
Sally painted her Berkshire National Resources Council (BNRC) masterpiece on the Hoosac Range in North Adams. Between 2007 and 2009, she guided us through eight separate transactions on the mountain. These ranged from buying land from a bankrupt cable television company, to selling the Wigwam Gift Shop & Cabins at the Western Summit. She provided every minute of the legal work, and no small share of the moral encouragement, that BNRC needed to conserve over two miles of ridgeline.
She refused to take a penny for her time.
There's a trail now along the Hoosac Range, running south to Spruce Hill. Along this path, high on the mountain, there is a clearing, a spot of ledge wisped with grass. At certain times of year hawks glide by. Every day, whether we see it or not, the sun sets over the Taconics, leaving the Berkshires in shade.
Tad Ames is president of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council. Sarah Bell of Lenox died last Monday at the age of 84.