Sarah Sansbury Stephens, 78

Thu, 11/12/2020 - 7:00pm
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Sarah Sansbury Stephens, known to her friends as Sally, passed away from cancer at the age of 78 on Oct. 11, 2020, surrounded by her loved ones at her home in Bronxville, New York.

Sally was born in Hanover, N.H. on March 13, 1942, and grew up in Lyme, N.H. She was the daughter of John William Sansbury and Dorothy Mildred Gregory Sansbury. Sally was their second child, sister to Jeanne Sansbury Bell, of West Springfield, Mass., and Gail Gregory Sansbury (Joseph Busch), of Washington, DC. She is survived by her husband William Joseph Penn of Block Island, R.I. and her two sons, John William Stephens of Hong Kong SAR and Christopher Robert Sansbury Stephens of Brooklyn, N.Y. Sally greatly loved her two grandchildren, Lauren On Qiu Stephens and John Lucas Tze Qiu Stephens, both of Hong Kong SAR. Her previous marriage, to John Thomas Stephens of Sarasota, Florida ended in 1991. Sally married William J. Penn in 1999 at the Harbor Church on Block Island.

Sally was a life-long learner. She graduated from Hanover High School, N.H. in 1960. She continued her studies at Tufts University’s Eliot-Pearson School, Medford, Mass., majoring in Early Childhood Education. She received her Bachelor of Science in Education in 1964. In 1969, Sally received her Master of Education from Clarion State College in Pennsylvania. Later in life, she continued her education attaining an MBA with distinction at Pace University, N.Y. in 1986 and an MLS in School Library Media at Queens College, N.Y. in 2002.

Sally worked as an educator from 1964 through 2020, though she took a number of years off to focus on raising her boys. In her early years of teaching, she taught kindergarten and first and second grades in Hanover, N.H., Brookville, Penn., and Munich, Germany. She spent many years in the New York Public School system, first teaching in Staten Island, and then as a teacher and the school librarian for many years at P.S. 56 in the Bronx. After her retirement, she continued to teach parttime.

With more free time, Sally returned to her life-long interest in sewing. She created custom baby clothes, special bags, Block Island towels, and many other items which she sold at the Block Island Farmers Market, and she enjoyed working on the annual Block Island quilt project. She loved to create handmade clothing and costumes for grandchildren Lauren and Lucas.

Sally loved to travel, often using visits to her son and grandchildren in Hong Kong as a jumping off point to visiting many parts of Asia and Oceania. Sally and Bill also joined close friends on three different cruises in the Amazon. She joined her friend’s non-profit organization on a trip to sub-Saharan Africa to provide local elementary schools with books and other resources.

Sally was an avid reader and shared book ideas freely with her family and friends. As an expert in early childhood development and as a librarian, she was a passionate advocate for reading out loud. She loved a broad range of genres, from the classics to mysteries to science fiction and fantasy, as well as many young adult books that she selected for her middle school students.

Sally’s family, friends and co-workers enjoyed her good humor, generosity, and hospitality, and she stayed in touch with life-long friends. She loved entertaining at her summer home in the Sheep’s Meadow on Block Island.

Celebrations of her life will be scheduled in the coming year on Block Island and in Lyme, N.H.