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Sally Fiedler, well-known poet, English teacher

Nov. 13, 1939 – Feb. 22, 2016

Sally Fiedler, a poet, teacher and leading figure in Buffalo’s literary community, died Feb. 22 in Roswell Park Cancer Institute after a long struggle with lung cancer. She was 76.

Born in Joliet, Ill., Mrs. Fiedler spent her youth in nearby Ottawa, Ill., and earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in English literature from the University of Illinois, now the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. During her seven-year teaching career there, Mrs. Fiedler met and married Sayre Dunbar Andersen, with whom she had two sons, Soren and Eric Andersen.

In the early 1970s, according to Mrs. Fiedler’s son Eric, she met the renowned Buffalo-based literary critic Leslie Fiedler at a Modern Language Association conference in Chicago and soon after moved to Buffalo. The two married in 1973, expanding her family to include his six children. He died in 2003.

Mrs. Fiedler, an avid gardener, frequent traveler and hostess, had a long and varied teaching career in Buffalo, beginning with a stint as an adjunct professor with the University at Buffalo’s Millard Fillmore College. Later, she taught English at Nichols School, where, with another faculty member, she arranged a four-day residency featuring then-controversial poet Allen Ginsberg. She also taught as part of the city’s Poetry-in-the-Schools program.

Mrs. Fiedler is perhaps best known for her career as an English teacher at Buffalo Seminary, where she is remembered as an instrumental and inspirational figure in the lives of hundreds of young women.

“Sally was a remarkably warm and generous person, a close and critical reader and much-loved teacher, and a tremendous contributor to the Buffalo literary scene over the past half-century,” Buffalo News Poetry Editor R.D. Pohl wrote in a tribute to her on Facebook. “Her life and example shaped all the strong women poets and writers who have emerged from this community in succeeding generations.”

Among Mrs. Fiedler’s published poetry are the collections “Timepieces,” “Skin and Bones,” “To Illinois, With Love” and “Eleanor Mooseheart,” all from the mid-1970s. She also contributed to many publications and journals, including the American Poetry Review, Spirit, Folio, Forum, Buffalo Report and The Buffalo News, where her work could often be found on the Sunday Poetry Page. In addition to her sons Eric and Soren Andersen, she is survived by stepchildren Michael Fiedler, Terry P. Smith, Blanche Smith and Sandra Benner.

A memorial service will be held in late April.

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