Obituary of Sara Parker
Sara (Gifford) Parker, 87, formerly of East Woodstock and Ella Grasso Apartments in Putnam, widow of Joseph Parker, to whom she was married for 59 years, passed away at Matulaitis Nursing Home surrounded by her loving family on January 31, 2024. Born May 16, 1936, in Putnam, CT to Ruth Margaret (Aldrich) and Harry Albert Gifford, she was predeceased by her sisters Virginia Kesaris, Jean Sanchini, and Priscilla Butler, her great-granddaughter Adelynn, and her great-great-grandson Caspian. She is survived by her son, Mark, and wife Natalie; daughter, Joy, and husband Bob; son, Timothy, and wife LeAnn; son, Shawn, and husband David; and son, Matthew; nine granddaughters, fifteen great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
She inherited from her mother great skill as a baker of cookies, cakes, pies, and fudge. She won many blue ribbons at the Woodstock Fair for her cakes before retiring young to give others a chance and elevated many family birthdays with her Feathery Fudge Cake. Knitter, Quilter, Baker, UConn Women’s Basketball fan, and lover of holidays, she loved a good time and bringing beauty and deliciousness into our lives. An avid writer, Sara filled hundreds of notepads full of stenography notes of sermons, phone conversations, television news broadcasts, thoughts, lists, and poems. For many years she would create a 4th of July Jamboree Poem to put on a poster and on invitations to a family-and-friends picnic in her backyard.
She kept in close touch with many of her classmates from the Putnam High School Class of 1954 and helped organize their annual reunions. She practiced her organizational skills with conscientious dedication in many jobs over the years, including as a nurse’s aide at Matulaitis and as a secretary/administrative assistant to doctors, ministers, and organizations including Putnam Savings Bank, Windham County Country Parish, Marianapolis, and American Optical/Cabot Safety/Aearo.
Sara and her late husband, Joe, shared their love of the Methodist Church, both locally as members of Living Faith United Methodist Church in Putnam, and in the greater Methodist connection in New England and beyond. As a partnership, they embodied the dual traditions of Methodism, Joe a witness for the Church’s evangelical spirit and Sara driven by the vision of social justice in Christian service. At 7 years old, Sara became the church’s youngest member of the Missions Committee, and as an adult she assumed leading roles in United Methodist Women, many church committees, the Assembly of the Laity, and mission work.
In her faith and for her family, Sara always wanted the world to be a better place and endeavored to do what she could do to make it so and to encourage and empower others to do the same. She was proud that all her children graduated as first-generation college students and never hesitated to volunteer her advice for how to live better lives and warn us against actions she feared would result in us waking up in a ditch by the side of the road or other such disaster.
As a result, we all know how fiercely she could fight for what she believed to be just and right and how impressively insistent she could be. Anyone who loved Sara can recall at least one battle royale over something that she could not, would not accept. This drive fueled her active advocacy for nuclear disarmament, the U.N. Law of the Sea, the covenant relationship between the New England Methodist Church and the Asociación de Iglesias de Cristo de Nicaragua (AICN), especially the sewing project in Managua and Nandasmo where many women learned a trade to improve their household's income, and many other causes. While she sometimes was alone in her fight, she was often remarkably effective in drawing others into the effort, getting results, and making a difference. Sara lived her faith by opening up her home to many local and international people who needed a place to stay while they recovered from a setback, got themselves established, or served in mission work. In many, many ways, Sara succeeded in leaving the world better than she found it.
She accomplished all this despite health setbacks throughout her life from childhood kidney disease and scoliosis to compressed/pinched discs and paralysis caused by Guillain–Barré syndrome in her late 30s; she fought through it and rarely let chronic pain prevent her from her goals of making a difference. She was helped in ways great and small by friends, neighbors, and medical professionals, especially at Matulaitis Nursing Home and through Day Kimball Homecare and Hospice. Her family thanks you all for providing patient support and compassionate care.
There will be a memorial service on March 9, 2024, at 11:00 am at the Living Faith United Methodist Church, 53 Grove St., Putnam, CT. The family asks that donations in Sara’s name be made to the Memorial Fund of the Living Faith United Methodist Church, 53 Grove St, Putnam, CT 06260. Share a memory at Smithandwalkerfh.com