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Sarah Phelps Leavens Gilmour was born November 5, 1931, in Oxnard, California to Paul and Anne Oberhelman Leavens, and died on January 6, 2015, in Santa Barbara.
Sarah grew up in Santa Paula except for a few years during the early part of World War II when she and her family lived in Florida. Sarah graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois. She studied at Princeton Seminary where she met George Gilmour.
After their marriage in Santa Paula in 1957, they served several churches: Winter Memorial Presbyterian Church, Casper, Wyoming, where their two children, Andrew and Maureen, were born; Bethany Presbyterian Church, Muskogee, Oklahoma; Central Presbyterian Church, Fort Smith, Arkansas; and Lake Burien Presbyterian Church, Burien, Washington.
Warm, gentle, with lively curiosity and a quick sense of humor, beloved by family and friends, Sarah was a lifelong Presbyterian, a loyal friend, a supporter of equality and tolerance, a storyteller, a teacher, a faithful correspondent. She had a deep appreciation for music, and read widely and delighted in sharing items of interest with family and friends. She loved gardening, especially roses, orchids, rhododendrons, and azaleas. When she retired to California where her family roots are she took great pleasure in the bountiful flowers, and fruit from the Leavens family ranch, which she enjoyed sharing with others. Genealogy was a special interest, researching family history from original letters, papers, stories and oral histories. Sarah felt strongly about sharing family lore and history to help younger family members know more about their ancestors and family background, and told family stories that helped pass on the values of earlier generations. She served for several years as secretary of the Oklahoma Society of Mayflower Descendants, and she was an active member of the Stonington CT Historical Society.
Sarah had the wonderful gift of making each person she met feel special and valued. Helping others, and making a difference in peoples' lives, was important to Sarah. Many of her efforts were focused on children and youth. She was the President of the citywide Parent-Teachers Association in Muskogee; her service as American Field Service regional coordinator for high school foreign exchange students led to wonderful friendships with former foreign exchange students over many years. While in Seattle, she led the Presbyterian Women of the Synod of Alaska-Northwest. Since living in Santa Barbara, she was a member of the Santa Barbara chapter of the PEO, and served as a docent at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Sarah traveled around the world visiting family and friends. One of her greatest joys was meeting and talking with people and establishing new friendships and cherishing each one. She particularly enjoyed maintaining the friendships with family and friends overseas including several former foreign exchange students and lifelong pen pals.
Sarah is survived by her loving husband of 57 years, George H. Gilmour; their two children and spouses, Andrew Gilmour and Chris Cozadd, and Maureen Gilmour Cook and Jim Cook; and grandchildren, Carl, Jimmy, his wife, Melissa, and Erin Cook, and Jonathan and Timothy Gilmour. She is also survived by her sister, Mary Leavens Schwabauer, and brother, Paul Leavens; her sister-in-law, Helen Van Cleve, brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Matthew and Sharon Gilmour; and many cousins, nieces, nephews, and their children. She was predeceased by her sister, Dr. Dorothy Leavens Carlson.
A celebration of Sarah's life will be held at First Presbyterian Church, Santa Barbara, California, on January 31, 2015, at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests making memorial donations to Santa Barbara Symphony, 1330 State Street, Suite 102, Santa Barbara, CA 93101; The Foundation of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the George H. and Sarah L. Gilmour Fund (Account Number 1020202006), 200 E. Twelfth St., Jeffersonville, IN 47130 (income supports mission projects; or American Field Service (AFS)-USA Student Exchange Program, National Development Office, 120 Wall Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10005.