Obituary of Sarah Isabelle Latimer
Sarah Isabelle Latimer was born in Petersburg, Virginia to parents Fred T. and Sarah Jane Harwell, the children of enslaved people, on January 7, 1923. She was the twelfth and last child. Her siblings, Fred, Richard, Roy, Blanche, Fred Paul, Mae, Walter, James, Hester, Gertrude, and Sterline preceded her in death. Sarah’s passing was due to COVID-induced pneumonia. Sarah attended school in Ettrick, VA. She graduated from Webster Davis H.S., where she sang in the choir. One of her favorite memories was when her choir was selected to accompany rising star, Marian Anderson, in concert. After a short time at home, Sarah joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corp. She took her basic training in a segregated unit at Fort Des Moines, IA, and served from January 1943-Nov 1944 as a General Clerk. She earned a WAAC Service Medal and was honorably discharged as a PFC. Sarah moved to New York to join her sisters during the great migration. She met her husband, Richard Leon Latimer (deceased) at his restaurant, Rick’s. He wooed her with his cooking and free meals. They fell in love and were married on August 22,1951 in Brooklyn, NY. Sarah and Rick had six children: Sheridan (deceased), Richard L. Jr, Roxanne, Peter (deceased) Trevor and Hester. They lived in Queensbridge Houses in the borough of Queens. Sarah was a homemaker, while Rick worked for the Post Office and fixed cars for his neighbors. When her children were selected to integrate an all-white school, Sarah got a job as a Teacher’s Aide at their new elementary school so they would feel safer. She received many awards for her work with children, later moving on to work at JHS 204. Sarah made most of the children’s clothes when they were younger. Sewing became her passion. She made elaborate dolls and doll clothes, crocheted and knitted hats and scarves, and sold her creations at flea markets and festivals around New York. She was an avid reader and never lost her love of music. There wasn’t a day when Sarah didn’t sing. Her children fondly remember the special times when their parents sang together. Sarah liked to travel and saw much of the US and Canada. Sarah attended services at Mount Olivet church in Harlem. The kids went to Sunday School in the neighborhood and, with her encouragement, formed “The Golden Tones” singing group, performing at church services. Sarah lived in the same home for 45 year. After the death of her husband Rick, she moved to a senior building in Flushing, NY. Sarah had been a resident for several years. NYCHA instituted a floor captain policy after a string of deaths in the building that were not discovered for a few days. She volunteered to be the captain for the 3rd floor, courageously checking on each resident once a day. Making friends along the way. In 2013 she moved to Iowa City, IA with her daughter Roxanne (Veronika). She lived with them for 9 months, eventually firing them because they were too boring. She chose to move into Briarwood HealthCare Center where she was happier, enjoyed the live music, had some welcome male conversation partners, and was often heard singing while wheeling herself down the hall. Always one to speak her mind, Sarah left her mark on Briarwood when she informed leadership that the game, Hangman, was offensive to African Americans. She felt vindicated when they stopped playing, assuring that future Black residents would not encounter this painful reminder of racism. Sarah also liked to show off her flair for fashion, wearing a different scarf or hat to match her outfit every day. Whenever her NY family visited, Sarah was one proud mother. Sarah made her transition on January 29, 2021. She was much loved and will be deeply missed. She is survived by four of her children, Richard Jr, Roxanne (Veronika), Trevor (Darlene) and Hester; five grandchildren, Petera, Sonia, Shanee, Rebeccah-Sarah (Judson) and Sarahann; and nine great-grands, Andre, Nina, Nadine, Ashlee, Musa, Faatimah, Niara, Jaden and Jackson. The family wishes to thank Briarwood’s capable staff and leadership for all they have done for Sarah. They all, and particularly Sarah’s day nurse, Jennifer, and Bill Tester, have gone above and beyond. We would also like to thank our family and friends who joined us in making a home for Sarah in Iowa City. Sarah will be interred at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, NY, with her beloved husband, Ricky. The family thanks everyone for your calls and words of support. In lieu of flowers please send donations to Briarwood HCC, 605 Greenwood Dr, Iowa City, IA 52246. To share a thought, memory or condolence with Sarah’s family please visit the funeral home website @ www.gayandciha.com. Please wear a mask so we don’t lose any more of our grand old ladies and gents.