Sarah Shepard Whyte died on May 16 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, surrounded by her daughters Alison and Hilary. She was 71.

She was born Jan. 10, 1951 in Toledo, Ohio, grew up in Kensington, Conn. and graduated from The Oxford School in 1969. As a child she demonstrated a sharp intelligence and a lively wit, which she carried throughout her life.

She began summering on the Island, in Harthaven, during the 1960s. In 1969, she took a job at the old Island Country Club as a switchboard operator, where she met Colin Whyte, the bartender. They married in 1973. Colin joked that Sarah used to listen in on his phone calls.

She attended the University of New Hampshire where she majored in English literature, graduated summa cum laude and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society. She pursued an enviable career in special education and added several more degrees, certifications and honors over her lifetime.

As a working mother, she went on to earn two master’s degrees from Lesley University in Cambridge and completed programs at Harvard and Columbia University. In 2003, she gained a certificate of advanced graduate studies for educational leadership from Salem State College.

She and Colin enjoyed a 40-year marriage and had three children: Alison, born in 1979; Miles, born in 1982; and Hilary, born in 1988. Sarah was a devoted and loving mother. When Hilary was five years old, Sarah went to China for two weeks to present at the Hangzou Normal University, and in preparation for her trip, she recorded herself reading multiple children’s stories so Hilary would feel comforted at bedtime while she was away. The tapes will be forever treasured by her granddaughters.

Sarah may be best remembered on the Island for her work in special education at the West Tisbury School, where she taught for 20 years. She was known for her innovative, compassionate and even — if at times unconventional — work at the school. It was not uncommon for her to do headstands when students succeeded at a particularly difficult task. Her daughter Hilary is amazed by how often she meets someone who remarks what a difference her mother made in their lives through her teaching.

She was a board member at Vineyard Montessori School and at the Boys & Girls Club of Martha’s Vineyard. She was on the Island Council for Youth, and developed a new teacher training program for special education and reading teachers on Martha’s Vineyard.

When thinking of Sarah, the first thing that comes to mind is her sense of humor, her quips, her laugh, to share her company was always to share laughter.

In 2001, she and Hilary moved to Hamilton, where Sarah became part of the Hamilton Curriculum Development team. She later became the liaison for all elementary schools in Andover, a role that she viewed as the crowning achievement of her career.

She retired in 2011 and moved to West Falmouth and then to Osterville, where she spent the last six years of her life with her partner and teenage friend, Richard Pascal, who describes her as his soulmate and life’s inspiration.

She is survived by her son C. Miles Whyte and his wife Deanna Whyte; her daughter Alison Whyte Thompson, her husband Joseph Thompson and granddaughter Elizabeth Thompson; and her daughter Hilary Whyte Moore, her husband Patrick Moore and granddaughters Avery and Olive Moore. She is also survived by her brother Daniel Shepard, sister Katharine Shepard, partner Richard Pascal and her ex-husband Colin Whyte.

A celebration of her life will be held at the Martha’s Vineyard Sailing Camp in Oak Bluffs from 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 12.

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