When her whistle split the air, the hobnobbing of dignitaries and doyennes fell silent.

Heads whipped around in search of the woman with a thumb and middle finger looped at her lips.

Forget the gavel. Sally Pillsbury is here.

Decade by decade, “here” she always seemed to be, drumming up support for causes, candidates and charities with her husband, George.

She was a founding director of the Guthrie Theater’s board of directors, a fixture at opening nights. She gave a nominating speech for Minnesota favorite son Walter Judd at the 1964 GOP National Convention. At events for Planned Parenthood and Women Winning, she made clear her commitment to reproductive health and support for women candidates from both parties.

A woman “ahead of her time,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Someone who “told it like she saw it and never looked back,” said U.S. Sen. Tina Smith.

The basement playroom of the Pillsbury home on Lake Minnetonka sometimes doubled as a campaign hub, the pingpong table buried in leaflets and children lending a hand.

That’s where Mark Dayton, 6, found himself stuffing envelops for Republicans.

Amid political sea changes, her convictions remained as fixed as her signature blonde coiffure.

“She never abandoned us, even though her party did,” said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

Pillsbury stepped out in vivid color — purples, pinks, reds — tilting forward as she walked, bracelets jangling.

“My mother,” said her daughter Sarah, “was not a beige person.”

Hannah Covington