Sarah Goodale Shepard of Vineyard Haven died Jan. 16 following a brief illness. She was 87.

She was born in Middleborough in 1935 to Robert Preston and Elizabeth Tillson Goodale. The family, including her younger brother Jerry, moved to the Vineyard in 1942. Her parents later founded the Goodale Construction Company. 

A proud graduate of the Tisbury School, class of 1953, and both manager of the basketball team and the Junior Prom queen, Sarah stayed in touch with her classmates over the years.

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Vanderbilt University in 1957, she remained in Nashville, working as an emergency room nurse. 

On her twenty-third birthday, she went on a blind date with a handsome young Vanderbilt medical student from Tampa, Fla., Frank Michael Shepard, known as Mike. They married eight months later, in December 1958. 

Mike’s academic and medical career dictated the couple’s location: first Nashville; then San Francisco, where son Martin was born; then Sweden, where Mike continued his studies. They returned to Nashville, where son David, and daughter Elizabeth, were born; then to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where Steven was born; on to Omaha, Neb. where Mike was chairman of the pediatrics department at Creighton University; and finally to the newly-established medical school at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. 

She paused her nursing career to care for her growing family and later recertified and returned to nursing. After the children were grown, the Shepards moved to Jonesborough, Tenn. In each new city, she made lifelong friends and went out of her way to make sure that newly hired doctors, faculty, and their families received a warm welcome. 

Sarah and the children spent most summers in Vineyard Haven at the family camp in the Grove avenue neighborhood, providing lifelong treasured connections to the Island, family and friends. 

In 2000, Sarah and Mike retired to Hines Point and then to the family camp on the Vineyard. She loved attending concerts and shows, playing bridge, and was a member of the Friends of the Vineyard Haven Public Library. Fascinated by Island history, Sarah spent countless hours researching and relating stories from the past.

She became active in the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard in 1996. Serving two terms as parish committee president, she guided UUSMV to become a Welcoming Congregation and created the Caring Network. 

The discovery of an archive in the church attic inspired her to research and write the history of UUSMV; she became its official historian. In 2017, Unitarian Missionary to Seamen: Rev. Daniel Waldo Stevens and the Sailors Free Reading Room was published in The Dukes County Intelligencer.

She had a gift for getting to know people, their stories and interests. Her greatest pleasure was meeting with old friends and making new ones, and introducing them to each other, relating their commonalities and creating connections. Always gracious, she loved entertaining at home and meeting friends and family for meals. Even the pandemic didn’t deter her; Sarah and Mike would pack a picnic and enjoy lunch and each other’s company while visiting their favorite scenic spots.

Sarah and Mike were married for 62 years and both felt blessed by that rare and wonderful union. Mike died in August of 2022. 

She is survived by her children: Frank Martin Shepard, his wife Leigh Anne and their children Asa Martin, and Eliza Anne; David Michael Shepard, his wife Margaret (Peggy) and their children, Benjamin Robert and his wife Emmie, and Marie Elizabeth; Elizabeth Tillson Shepard; Steven Goodale Shepard and his wife Brenda, and their daughter Katrin Anna Jewell; and her brother, Jeremy Goodale. 

A celebration of Sarah’s life will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard Saturday in Vineyard Haven on March 11. 

Memorial donations can be made to UUSMV at or the Vineyard Haven Public Library at