Our beautiful Sarah Janell Marsh-Besses passed early in the morning on Sunday, August 22nd. She was called Janell by some and Sarah by others, born in Hardesty, Oklahoma on January 27, 1945 to Nona Marie Brown, a hard-working mother and expert quilter and John Prewett, a farmer.
She was a well-behaved, thoughtful child with a touch of precociousness who could have sworn she was adopted. She would blossom into a peace-loving, earth-loving, young adult. The year Kennedy was shot, Sarah was in her first year of college at Central State University in Oklahoma. She graduated in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in K to 8 education. A teaching job and wanderlust took Sarah to Long Beach, California where she continued her education toward a master’s degree at Pepperdine University and met and married her first husband, Charles James Marsh. In 1971, they had one daughter, Heather. Six years later, she divorced and moved her family to Oklahoma.
While Sarah’s first job in Oklahoma was not in teaching (no immediate job openings), she was doing what she loved, working to protect the rights children to learn and thrive by tracking down offenders who didn’t pay their child support with the Department of Health and Human Services. After that job, teaching became her vocation for the rest of her professional career --- 34 beautiful and sometimes long academic years.
It was in Norman, Oklahoma where she met and married the love of her life, Ronald D. Besses, the general supervisor of body operations at General Motors. He was also an E4 Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps. (Booyah!) They were well known around the Norman community for being that lovely couple, “the professor and his wife”--- never mind Ron wasn’t actually a professor. They were proud members of the OU women’s basketball boosters and season ticket holders. Sarah was never a sports fan until she met Ron, but once she started attending games, she was hooked. From the moment they met, until her last day, they would laugh and make up silly stories. You were never quite sure what was true, but you did know that you wanted to be in their presence. They were so fun to be near. Their humor and irreverence were contagious. Whenever he would tell her she was driving him crazy, she would look him right in the eye and say, “Well, you don’t have far to go.”
Sarah was unique in understanding the truly relevant things in life. She cherished her family of birth, the family she birthed, and the family Ron brought with him into their marriage. Sarah loved spending time with everyone near or far, in-person or far-away. Thank God for nationwide calling. Heather lived in California while Ron’s daughters were scattered around the country: Andrea in Maryland, Lisa in North Carolina, and Rhonda in Broken Arrow with grandchildren (Alexandria, Ashlee, Bria, Kainoa, Kealoha) and a great grandchild (Mila) similarly dispersed. And when she couldn’t be with them, she loved hearing all about how they were doing over the phone. In between visits, Sarah and Ron have other family in their lives, Sarah’s sister, Nona Mae, and brothers, Nathan and Gary, a slew of amazing friends and neighbors who are ever-present in their lives.
As everyone knows, her other passion, besides work and family, was traveling. When her daughter was in college, Sarah went to France for the first time and fell in love with the culture and people. As a couple, Sarah and Ron traveled around the world---France multiple times, Hawaii, and to Spain for their niece Cari’s wedding. They even went to Bermuda, but Sarah didn’t like it because it wasn’t Paris. Ron finally stopped asking Sarah where she wanted to go on vacation. Paris was always her other true love.
This short obituary could not do justice to the deep, thoughtful, spiritual, loving person that we know and love. She cultivated her relationships as carefully as she cultivated her precious rose garden.
And these relationships and the loved that she grew is the greatest part of her legacy which we all share.