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Sarah Duff Steptoe

Aug 14, 2015

Sarah Duff Steptoe, a long-time resident of Berkeley County, passed from this life on Aug. 6 at Berkeley Medical Center, surrounded by family and friends.

Born in Martinsburg on Nov. 6, 1921, Sarah’s father was the late Dr. James Abram Duff and her mother was the late Pansy Kittinger Duff. She was pre-deceased by a half brother, James A. Duff Jr., and half sister, Naomi Duff Smith.

Sarah graduated from Martinsburg High School in 1938 and attended Northfield Seminary for one year prior to matriculating at Hood College. She graduated from Hood in 1943 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

On April 2, 1942, Sarah married Ensign Robert (Bob) Mason Steptoe, of Shepherdstown. Following Bob’s Navy service in World War II, the couple lived in Charlottesville Virginia, where Bob attended and graduated from the University of Virginia Law School. In February 1949, they moved to Martinsburg where Bob began his law practice and Sarah started her church and community activities that grew and flourished over the next 65 years.

Sarah was preceded in death by her husband, Bob; son, James Duff Steptoe; and two daughters-in-law, Mary Pat Thompson Steptoe and Patricia Gail Steptoe.

She is survived by three children and their spouses, Robert M. Steptoe Jr. and Rebecca Jarvis Steptoe, of Clarksburg, Philip P. Steptoe II and Lynne Seibert Steptoe, of Martinsburg, and Sally Steptoe Hazard and Sprague W. Hazard, of Charleston.

She was the devoted grandmother of nine, Robert M. Steptoe III, of Morgantown, Katherine Steptoe Fisher, of Columbus, Ohio, Elizabeth Steptoe Smailes, of Morgantown, Anne Steptoe-Sexton, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Charles Y. Steptoe, of Street, Maryland, James G. Steptoe, of Martinsburg, Dr. Hannah W. Hazard, of Morgantown, Dr. S. William Hazard III, of Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Rebecca Hazard Dick, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Her fifteen great-grandchildren are Dylan S. Steptoe and Sarah E. Steptoe, of Street, Maryland; Robert M. Steptoe IV, Charles H. Steptoe, and Miles T. Steptoe, of Morgantown; D. Blake Fisher, Lillian S. Fisher, and Marshall S. Fisher, of Columbus, Ohio; Cooper J. Hazard, Brandt W. Hazard, and Grady T. Hazard, of Hershey, Pennsylvania; Carter O. Smailes and Campbell T. Smailes, of Morgantown; and Genevieve G. Dick and Catherine P. Dick, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Sarah’s focus was always on her family, and her activities at Trinity Episcopal Church, Martinsburg and in the Martinsburg/Berkeley County community developed and matured along with her children. As a young mother, she taught Sunday school, served as cub scout den mother, volunteered at the girl scout office, and was active in the PTA of each child’s school. She and Bob sang in the Trinity Church choir for almost 50 years, and guided all of their children into church activities.

As her children grew and moved on to higher education and careers, Sarah re-focused her attention on church, community, and support for Bob’s public service as a state legislator. She served as a lector, Lay Eucharistic Minister, chairperson of the Altar Guild, Saint Mary’s Guild, and the Episcopal Churchwomen at Trinity, as well as multiple terms on the vestry. Sarah began her long service to the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia as chairperson of the diocesan Episcopal Church women, Ecumenical Coordinator, Standing Committee member, and National Cathedral Representative. Her outstanding support for church and diocese led to her service to the national church, which included selection as a delegate to five meetings of the General Convention of the church, member of the Standing Committee on Ecumenical Relations, and member of the Board of Trustees of Virginia Theological Seminary. For her service to the church at all levels, Sarah received the Rector’s Cross, the Bishop’s Cross, the Order of Jerusalem, and the Bishop’s Shell award, a recognition for living her baptismal covenant.

In the Martinsburg/Berkeley County community, Sarah was instrumental in founding and operating the Norborne Early Learning Center at Trinity Episcopal Church, chairing and serving on its board. She was a key player in the 1979 meetings of several area churches to see how they could better transform faith into service. She chaired or co-chaired committees that founded CCAP/Loaves and Fishes, and Meals on Wheels. Sarah was an initial committee member for the Berkeley Senior Center and Panhandle Home Health and was also chairperson of the Friends of the Library. On the state level, Sarah served a term on the West Virginia Humanities Council. She was recognized by the Beta Sigma Phi service sorority as a First Lady of Martinsburg.

Sarah was an artist, poet, and reader. She worked in oil and watercolors, and gave many of her works to family, friends, and organizations. Her poetry was appreciated by the local poetry community and published in the poets’ corner of the local paper. She read and reviewed new books on radio, and is fondly remembered for her radio readings of children’s books. Bob and Sarah delighted in world travel and shared many trips over the years. This made her an outstanding contributor at Travel Club, of which she was a member for over 50 years.

Her home and gardens were another of her many interests. She was a founding member of the Gateway Garden Club and showed her home on two annual house and garden tours.

Always the mother, grandmother, great-grand- mother, friend and mentor, Sarah enriched many lives on her long journey through life. She lived for each new great-grandchild and rejoiced in the bounty of her family. As she grew to old age, she made new friends to replace the friends that had passed on. Similarly, in her old age she was unable to do the church ministry she had done all her life, so she adapted. When she was able to attend church, she listened to people and quietly consoled and encouraged them. She was the matriarch of not only her own family but her church family as well. Sarah lived the abundant life she was promised and shared her blessings with all who knew her.

Visitation will be from 4 to 6 and 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14, at Brown Funeral Home, 327 West King St., Martinsburg.

At her request, interment will be private on Aug. 15. The memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 200 West King St., Martinsburg.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Trinity Episcopal Church, 200 West King St., Martinsburg WV 25401; Norborne Early Learning Center, 200 West King St., Martinsburg WV 25401; or CCAP/Loaves and Fishes, 336 South Queen St., Martinsburg WV 25401.

Online condolences may be offered at www.BrownFuneralHomesWV.com