Sarah Goodale Shepard

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Sarah Goodale Shepard, 87, of Vineyard Haven, died on Jan. 16, 2023, following a brief illness.

Sarah had a true gift for getting to know people, and their stories and interests. Her greatest pleasure was meeting with old friends and making new ones, and introducing them to each other, relating their commonalities and creating connections. Fascinated by Island history, Sarah spent countless hours researching and relating stories from the past. Always gracious, she loved entertaining at home, and meeting friends and family for meals. Even the pandemic didn’t deter her; Sarah and Mike would pack a picnic and enjoy lunch and each other’s most welcome company while visiting any one of their favorite scenic spots.

Born in Middleborough in 1935 to Robert Preston and Elizabeth Tillson Goodale, the family, including younger brother Jerry, moved to the Vineyard in 1942. Her parents later founded the Goodale Construction Co. 

A proud graduate of Tisbury School, class of 1953, and both manager of the basketball team and junior prom queen, Sarah stayed in touch with her classmates over the years. After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Vanderbilt University in 1957, Sarah remained in Nashville, working as an ER nurse. 

On her 23rd birthday, she went on a blind date with a handsome, young Vanderbilt medical student from Tampa, Fla. — Frank Michael Shepard — Mike. They were married eight months later, in December 1958. 

Mike’s academic and medical career dictated the couple’s location: first Nashville; then San Francisco, where son Martin was born; then Sweden, where Mike continued his studies. They returned to Nashville, where son David and daughter Elizabeth were born; then to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where Steven was born; on to Omaha, Neb., where Mike was chairman of the pediatrics department at Creighton University; and finally to work for the newly established medical school at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. Sarah paused her nursing career to care for her growing family; and later was recertified and returned to nursing. After the children were grown, the Shepards moved to Jonesborough, Tenn. In each new city, she made lifelong friends, and went out of her way to make sure that newly hired doctors, faculty, and their families received a warm welcome. 

Despite the many moves, Sarah and the children spent most summers in Vineyard Haven at the family camp in the Grove Avenue neighborhood, providing lifelong treasured connections to the Island, family, and friends. 

In 2000, Sarah and Mike retired to Hines Point, and then to the family camp on the Vineyard. Sarah loved attending concerts and shows, playing bridge, and was a member of the Friends of the Vineyard Haven Public Library. She became active in the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard ­in 1996. Serving two terms as parish committee president, she guided UUSMV to become a welcoming congregation, and created the Caring Network. 

The discovery of an “archive” in the church attic inspired Sarah to research and write the history of UUSMV; she became their official historian. “Unitarian Missionary to Seamen: Rev. Daniel Waldo Stevens and the Sailors Free Reading Room” was published in 2017 in the Dukes County Intelligencer.

Sarah and Mike were married for 62 years, and both felt blessed by that rare and wonderful union. Mike died in August 2022. Sarah is survived by her children: Frank Martin Shepard, wife Leigh Anne, and children Asa Martin and Eliza Anne; David Michael Shepard, wife Margaret (Peggy), and children Benjamin Robert and wife Emmie, and Marie Elizabeth; Elizabeth Tillson Shepard; Steven Goodale Shepard, wife Brenda, and daughter Katrin Anna Jewell; and her brother, Jeremy Goodale. 

A celebration of Sarah’s life will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday March 11. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to UUSMV at uusmv.org/donate, or to the Vineyard Haven Public Library at vhlibrarybuildingfund.org/donate.html.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Sarah was a lovely person who extended her warmth and friendliness to everyone she met. I met her through one of her long-time Island friends and was very touched when she included me along with our mutual friend in an invitation to a small dinner party at her home. It was a great evening, thanks to Sarah’s skill at engaging all of us in the conversation and making us feel comfortable and welcome, not to mention the delicious food she served. Sarah contributed so much to our community, through her work at her church and the library, as well as reaching out to people in need of knowing someone cares. She will be missed. My deepest condolences to her family.

    • Janet that was beautiful and I agree with everything you wrote. Sarah was a lovely person who made all who knew her feel welcome and cared for. She was intelligent, inquisitive, kind and always seemed interested in what people had to say. She is and will be dearly missed.

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