Sarah Hartley Doster passed away August 26th, 2019, after a long struggle with Parkinsons. She was born Sarah Eunice Hartley, in the small town of Alamo, Georgia, May 15, 1931, the eldest of 6 children, to David James Hartley and Annie Eunice Swinson Hartley. Her father was a tenant farmer and itinerant Southern Baptist preacher, and her mother ran a large household, cooking, canning, pickling and preserving.
Growing up on the farm, work was usually segregated, with the men in the fields and the women in the house. When Sarah challenged the division of labor, her father set her to plowing with a mule to teach her a lesson, but she stuck to it, being more stubborn than the mule. She was also a fine marksman, traveling to Chicago as a 4H shooting champion, beginning a lifelong love of travel.
Above all else, she loved books and saw education as a path to a larger world. She graduated from Georgia State Women’s College (now Valdosta State University) in 3 years with a degree in English and went on to teach English and Drama. She met a dashing bank examiner from the FDIC (and fellow book lover), Charlie Doster, on a double date. They married and moved to Statesboro, where they had the first of three children. The marksmanship came in handy when she saved her firstborn’s life by shooting a rattlesnake in the back yard.
Charlie’s career led them to move every couple of years, from Statesboro to Albany, to Mobile, to Tampa, to Richmond, to Philadelphia, and finally to San Francisco. This made it hard to teach, so she gave that up and became an artist, mainly of landscapes in watercolor and acrylics. Everywhere she moved, she had a large garden and used the fresh produce in the kitchen. She studied French cooking and became an adventurous gourmet cook. She was also a Girl Scout leader and introduced her children to camping and hiking on the Appalachian Trail, the Outer Banks of North Carolina and around Chesapeake Bay. She was an ardent environmentalist, and an active member of the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Fund.
A few years after moving to California, all the kids had gone off to college and she was able to travel more widely. She joined Earth Watch and volunteered on expeditions to dig for dinosaurs in Montana, pre-Columbian pottery in the caves of Belize, and archaeological artifacts from Majorca to Turkey. She trekked in China and Iceland. Her favorite trips, though, involved studying wildlife in Africa, particularly the Black Rhino. She developed many lasting friendships in Africa and returned as often as she could.
As soon as she had a grandchild (Rachel) who was old enough to travel, Sarah organized educational adventures yearly, rafting the Green River in Colorado, visiting glaciers in Alaska, the volcanos of Hawaii and the fjords of the Baltic Sea, wandering Ireland one year and Scotland another, reading history in the car, staying in medieval castles and attending local theater productions. She successfully passed on her love of books, travel and adventure to her children and grandchild.
She was a founding member of the Bookish Babes book group, and an active member of her local Baptist Church in Concord, California.
Her husband predeceased her in 2016. She is survived by three children: Sara Kathleen Doster (Kathi) MD, PhD, April Suzanne Doster (Sue) LCSW, and Charles Eugene Doster, Jr JD, and one grandchild, Rachel Spain Fagundes. She is also survived by four of her five siblings: Mary Louise, Wade Jackson (Jack), Lomus (Bud), and William Thomas (Bill); her brother David James (Sam) predeceased her.
She will be remembered for her boundless love, kindness and generosity by her family and her many friends.
There will be a memorial service at Ouimet Brothers Concord Funeral Chapel, 4125 Clayton Road in Concord, California, at 2pm on October 13, 2019. If anyone would like to make a donation in her name, she would have appreciated a donation to Sierra Club.
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