Sunday, June 13, 2021


Sara ‘Sally’ Backes Leighton

Sara ‘Sally’ Backes Leighton


On March 6, Sara “Sally” Backes Leighton passed away at the age of 90 at her home in Guilford, surrounded by her children, grandchildren, and her beloved cat Goofy.

Sally grew up in Wallingford. She attended Prospect Hill School and Walnut Hill, graduated from Connecticut College in 1952, and then attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, where she earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1956.

She married Kingsley Tuttle Leighton on June 25, 1955, and began raising a family of four children. In 1964, she began working part-time as a research assistant variously in the Chemistry, Biology, and Geology departments at Yale University. In 1976 Sally began working full-time at The Hopkins School in New Haven, initially as administrative assistant to the headmaster, and quickly transitioned to a faculty position as a chemistry teacher. She taught science and chemistry throughout her 23 year career at Hopkins and along the way served as the head of the Science Department, the director of studies, and finally as the associate head of school.

She retired from Hopkins in 1999, and devoted her time and energy to her gardening, to watching and passionately supporting UConn women’s basketball, to The Hyland House, and most especially to The Friends of the Guilford Free Library, where she built the online book selling activity into a successful and significant source of income for the library.

Sally will forever be remembered for her love of learning, her sharp mind, her sense of humor, her artistic sensibilities, her willingness to step outside the lines for what she believed in, her limitless supply of expressions for any circumstance, her love of a good fireworks display, and her wonderful laugh.

Sally is survived by her four children, Jonathan (wife Katherine and children James, Sara, Thomas, and Jiao), Katharine (children Emma and Nicholas), James (wife Anna and daughter Eve), and Elizabeth (husband Benjamin and children Andrew and Matthew).

The family requests that charitable donations in Sally’s name be sent to The Friends of the Guilford Free Library, 67 Park Street, Guilford, CT 06437. The Hawley Lincoln Memorial, Guilford was in charge of arrangements.

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