Sarah M. Dwyer, 83, of Bryn Mawr, a teacher at Merion Elementary School for 42 years and later an antique dealer in Narberth, died Wednesday, March 17, of heart failure at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
Ms. Dwyer was in her classroom on April 4, 1991, when an airplane carrying Sen. John Heinz collided with a helicopter and crashed on the school playground. All five people on the two aircraft, including Heinz, were killed. Two school children on the ground also died.
Ms. Dwyer, concerned about a possible fire and wanting to shield children from the horrific scene, ushered many students out the back door to the safety of a neighbor’s house.
She appeared on local TV one year as a smoker trying to quit during the American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout. Although she didn’t kick the habit that time — she lit up as soon as the cameras were turned off — she eventually did stop smoking.
Nicknamed Sally, Ms. Dwyer was an avid antiquer, and she partnered with her sister, Elizabeth, as owner and manager of the Fairwinds Collection antique store in Narberth after her retirement from teaching. She also served as president of the Narberth Business Association for three years.
Ms. Dwyer loved horses, so she bought a yearling and named it Fairwinds Honey. She asked one of her students to ride it, found a talented trainer, and a few years later beamed as they won blue ribbons at the Devon Horse Show and the National Horse Show.
Born May 14, 1937, the middle of three daughters, Ms. Dwyer grew up in Merion and graduated from West Catholic High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Immaculata University, a master’s degree at Temple University, and then returned to Lower Merion Township to teach.
She taught fifth grade at Belmont Hills Elementary School in Bala Cynwyd, and later at Merion Elementary School for more than four decades. Some of her greatest enjoyments were the annual reunions at her Beach Haven vacation home with former students and friends from her school days.
A gourmet cook, she liked to whip up elaborate meals and share recipes with friends. She also used food to engage her students, teaching them to create menus and concoct dishes of different countries to complement her geography lessons and expand their cultural awareness.
Ms. Dwyer was active in local Beach Haven issues in retirement, and wrote for the local newspaper. She was a great storyteller, and hysterically funny.
“She found humor in everything,” her sister said. “She used humor to make people feel better and relax.”
“She had a wonderful sense of humor and was always telling funny stories,” a colleague said in a tribute.
She was an avid bridge player, and hosted weekly games at her home after she retired. She also liked pinochle, read constantly, and preferred emotional face-to-face interactions over impersonal connections via computers and email.
“She didn’t care about money,” her sister said. “She was all about living and having fun.”
Another sister died earlier.