Sara Jane Woodward Was Active in Episcopal Church

Sara Jane Woodward died Friday, June 9, at her home on Martha's Vineyard following a courageous battle with endometrial cancer. She was 67.

Sara Jane was born in Winchester, the oldest daughter of Sara Copeland Woodward and Philip Jason Woodward. She attended the Winchester schools, was baptized and confirmed at the Church of the Epiphany, and attended Mount Holyoke College and the Boston University Theatre School. In 1964 she married Richard D. Stewart. That marriage ended in 1973, and in 1975 she married Ralph L. Knapp at the Church of the Epiphany. Throughout her life, Sara Jane was active in the Episcopal Church. In her twenties, she sang in the choir of Emmanuel Church under the direction of Jack Fischer; later she sang in the choir of Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill.

Sara Jane and Ralph lived on Long Island, N.Y., for 20 years, and Sara Jane was for five years lay chaplain to the Day School at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Bay Shore. She was a member of the church's Chamber Choir, and sang numerous soprano solos for that group. She and another parishioner developed a curriculum for confirmands, acquainting these young people with the wonderful stories of the Bible and with some of the ethical implications of them. Her theatre background enabled her to start a group of lectors for St. Peter's. She showed the members of the group how to project their voices to be heard in the large space of the nave, and she had them read the assigned lessons from any of the (then) seven authorized Bible translations, thereby bringing a broad range of scriptural language and imagery to the parish. For two years she attended the Mercer Theological Seminary in Garden City, on Long Island, to study Old Testament with Bp. J.G. Sherman, and Liturgy with Fr. Leo Malania.

Knitting was a nearly constant occupation with Sara Jane. Seldom without needles and yarn, she worked on projects for the Red Stocking Fund on the Island and also made caps, gloves and scarves for the Seamen's Church Institute in New York city. These were distributed to all the seamen who came to port during Christmas holidays.

In 1994 Ralph retired from his job, and a year later Sara Jane and Ralph moved to the Vineyard. Sara Jane became involved in liturgical planning at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven. She planned and produced the Liturgy of the Great Vigil of Easter in 1996. During the interim period following the departure of Fr. Henry, she and Ralph typed and produced the parish's newsletter, Grace Notes. She also took on the reorganization of the church's financial record keeping, along with Lynn Tipson.

Sara Jane also was a member of the Island Community Chorus and took great pleasure in singing in it. She was a board member at the time of her death, and had produced a system for organizing and keeping track of the group's music. She belonged to a reading group that met monthly; she felt she benefited from the insights and knowledge of the other members of the group, and understood the literary work more profoundly for having discussed it with others.

During the last five years of her life, she was mentor to the Edgartown Readers at the Edgartown School. This was an enrichment course, in which students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades were assigned a book to read, and were expected to be able to discuss it at the next meeting. Sara Jane was passionate about showing the students that there was more to a work of fiction than its plot, and that authors wrote to show readers what it feels like to confront some of the realities of human existence. Her hope was that the students would begin to see that there were many ways of living life, and would learn to be open to new people and ideas, and would begin to understand how to do critical thinking.

Sara Jane maintained a loyalty to Mount Holyoke College and the friends she made during her stay at the school. While living on Long Island, she interviewed potential recruits for the college admissions office. Most recently, she was class treasurer and participated in the planning for their 45th reunion.

Sara Jane's hospitality was legendary. A brilliant cook, she produced wonderful food for her guests; she had a special touch with fish, and was delighted at the fish right off the boat available here on the Island. Her chocolate desserts, cookies and cakes were ambrosia for the gods. There was always a flow of brilliant conversation at her parties, and she loved drawing everyone in to the conversation of the group. She had a quick sense of humor, and could create a whimsical fantasy for any occasion on the spur of the moment.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by two sisters, Elizabeth Ann Woodward of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Jean True Woodward of Cambridge, as well as a nephew, Timothy W. O'Meara, of St. Thomas. She is also survived by numerous first cousins and first cousins at one remove.

Services will be held at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven on Saturday, June 17, at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Island Community Chorus, P.O. Box 4157, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568; Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557; Grace Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 1197, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, or the Vineyard Nursing Association, P.O. Box 2568, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.

Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs. Visit for an online register book and for more information.