Sarah Ellen Rainey, 101, went to the Lord at her SeniorCare Home in Overland Park, KS, on July 10, 2021, after a long and fruitful life. Sarah was born on November 19, 1919, in Goff, Kansas; the youngest of five children born to John Sherman and Hettie “Edith” Barnes Sourk. Sarah was always proud of her Irish heritage; hers was the second generation born in this country to hard-working Irish immigrants whose family became farmers in the Goff area as well as teachers and church and community leaders. The First Christian Church in Goff was built “barn-raising” style with lumber donated by her Irish-born grandfather, setting the model of church and community leadership for later generations.
Sarah is remembered as a loving family member and for her lifelong devotion to teaching and educational professionalism. After graduating from Goff High School in 1937, she attended Kansas University for two years, then returned home and began teaching in 1939 in a one-room school near the family homestead (with a $50 monthly salary), and later at Goff and Centralia Elementary Schools in Nemaha County, KS. The family later moved to Topeka, where she taught at elementary schools in the Shawnee Heights School District in Tecumseh, Kansas, from 1965 until her retirement in 1984, and where she was awarded the honor of district Master Teacher and was nominated for the Kansas Master Teacher Award.
Sarah married Kenneth Wiggins in 1942, and their son, Timothy, was born in 1945, When that marriage ended, she later married the love of her life, Herman Rainey, in 1949. Their new family included Timothy, Herman’s two daughters, Betty and Donna, and another daughter, Trudy, who was born in 1950. When her children were older, she returned to school to complete her B.A. Ed. and M.A. Ed. degrees from Washburn University in Topeka, KS, in 1964 and 1968.
Over the years, Sarah had been a Cub Scout den mother, 4-H leader, Sunday and Bible School teacher, and a longstanding member of the Order of the Eastern Star, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the local and National Education Association, the American Association of University Women, the Gem and Mineral Society, the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science, the Topeka Area Retired School Personnel, and her devoted STITCH group of retired teachers from Shawnee Heights Elementary School. She was an active member of the Town and Country Christian Church in Topeka, Kansas, since 1968. She held offices of president and other leadership roles in most of these organizations throughout the years.
Sarah had a lifelong passion for learning. Her interests were unendingly wide, and she loved to pass on these multi-faceted interests to her students and in classes for adults. These interests included rocks and minerals; calligraphy; astronomy; model rocketry; American and Kansas history; current events; religion; insects, and especially butterflies; native Americans; Native American beading; art and art history; crochet; sewing and upholstery; singing; piano and organ playing; travel, and always—reading. Maintenance around the house included doing her own gardening and mowing, electrical and plumbing repairs, car maintenance, mower maintenance (including changing oil, batteries, and spark plugs), and constructing makeshift repairs for about anything. She happily drove, participated in her church and organizations, maintained her home, mowed her lawn, and tended her flowers into her 90’s.
As a teacher, she was described as exceptional, strict, inventive, generous, and someone who knew each student’s strengths and weaknesses and brought out each one’s creativity while enriching their knowledge. As a mother and family member, she was described as caring, curious, intelligent, independent, quirky, present for all, and a communication hub. She was also frustrating, demanding, stubborn, and strong-minded; all the while a terrific role-model and mentor for those around her. She also saved everything possible from her life in her basement and in every nook and cranny of her home, which could have been made into a national archive! Her family was shocked, then surprised--or not, when she contracted COVID-19 at the age of 101; but then was asymptomatic throughout except for some additional fatigue. She was the epitome of a strong, intelligent woman who enjoyed multiple facets of life. She always said, “I came from good pioneer stock.”
Sarah was preceded in death by her husband, Herman Edward Rainey (1973), former husband, Kenneth E. Wiggins (1994), daughters, Donna Rainey (1998) and Betty Rainey Snair (2017); son-in-law, Terry Odle (2021); parents, John Sourk (1932) and Edith Sourk (1962); siblings, infant Hazel May Sourk (1902), Orville Sourk (1971), Gerald Sourk (1991), and Ruth Sourk Callahan (2008).
Sarah is survived by her son, Timothy Wiggins (Eileen), Mt. Zion, IL; her daughter, Trudy Stegelman Odle, Overland Park, KS; son-in-law, Robert Snair, Scottsdale, AZ; eight grandchildren, Jennifer Wiggins Durand (David), Decatur, IL; Jason Wiggins (Susan), Bloomington, IL; Jeff Stegelman, Seattle, WA; Heather Stegelman Wurdeman (Gabe), Osage City, KS, Stephanie Snair Vredenburgh (Larry), Tehachapi, CA; Diana Snair Thomas (Tim), Mesa, AZ; Penelope Snair Izaak (Yilmaz), Rolla, MO; and Eric Snair (Kristen), Glendale, AZ; sixteen great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.
Services for Sarah will be on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, at the Penwell-Gabel Funeral Chapel, 1321 SW 10th Avenue, Topeka, KS 66604. Visitation: 9:30-11:00 AM, Celebration of Life: 11:00 AM, Graveside Commitment: following the ceremony at Mt. Hope Cemetery, 4700 SW 17th Street.
Flowers can be sent to Penwell-Gabel and/or donations to the Town and Country Christian Church, 4925 SW 29th St, Topeka, KS 66614 www.tccchurch.org., or SeniorCare Homes, LLC., 5200 W 94th Terrace Suite 115, Prairie Village, KS 66207 www.seniorcare-homes.com.
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