Sarah Frances Newell
Sarah Frances Newell
  • July 16, 1931 - September 26, 2017
  • Louisville, Kentucky

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Small only in size, Sarah Richie Newell, 86, was mighty in strength, passion and spirit. Those whose lives intersected with hers know the power of her commitment to serve and improve her world. There was no project she didn't believe she could conquer, nothing broken that shouldn't be repaired, recycled or repurposed, no job, paid or volunteer, that she didn't tackle without the full force of her heart. She died peacefully at home with her family on Tuesday, September 26, leaving behind the products of a life of beautiful labors: independent, accomplished daughters, countless well-loved and nurtured public school students, shawls for cancer patients and much more.

Born on July 16, 1931 in Princeton, Kentucky, one of six children of Ernest and Gertrude Richie, Sarah showed her fierce drive early on. After graduating in 1950 from Butler High School in Princeton (and while a student working as a soda jerk at The Creamery), Sarah majored in Education and Psychology at Georgetown College graduating with her BA in 1950. In her time at Georgetown, she was chosen most outstanding student on campus as a junior, elected president of her sorority, and chosen for Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities.

In 1954, after practice teaching in Bald Knob, KY she married Richard F. Newell and they moved to Boston, MA. Signing on as a probationary third grade teacher at Newton Centre, she quickly earned the respect of students, parents and staff-so much so that for decades after returning to Kentucky she continued to receive annual greetings from her much older fellow teachers.

While in Boston, she was an active member of the Park Street Church.

In June 1956, she and her husband moved to Louisville. Eventually settling in Crescent Hill, they lived on the same street nearly 60 years. Sarah began as a substitute teacher in Jefferson County Public Schools, but in the early 1970s found her passion teaching GED requirements to former school dropouts, enabling them to earn their high school equivalency degrees. She tackled this work with characteristic enthusiasm, deeply gratified that she was helping transform lives of so many throughout the Commonwealth.

Excelling in ministry and service, Sarah gave countless hours and energy volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Seven Counties, in particular on the suicide crisis intervention program, for the Gingerbread Project, for the Backpackers, and Knitting for Kosair children.

A member of Broadway Baptist Church since 1958, Sarah for most of these years belonged to the Lydia Sunday School Class where she established deep friendships of lasting spiritual and emotional support.

She also became an associate member of the First Presbyterian Church of Richland, Michigan, where she and her family spent each summer at Gull Lake. A large part of Sarah's heart remained at the lake, where over the decades she transformed the family cottage into a warm, inviting home, adorning it with hostas and other perennials dug and divided from her Kentucky backyard.

Of all her love and passion, her greatest was reserved for her husband of 63 years and her three daughters. She so loved her family and adopted a practical parenting style that allowed her to raise three independent daughters, Priscilla Reed Newell of Paris, France, Elisabeth Richie Newell of Santa Monica, CA, and Sarah Frances Newell Usdin (Thomas Michael) of New Orleans, LA. In addition to her husband and daughters, she is survived by a brother George Robert Richie of Dallas, TX, a sister Gertrude Richie Smith of Scottsville, KY; two adult grandchildren, Eva Reed Bernard of Istanbul, Turkey and Max Dylan Fortune Bernard presently of Mendoza, Argentina and two school age children, Richard Lyle Usdin and Sarah Cecile Newell Usdin of New Orleans, LA. She also leaves numerous and well-scattered nieces and nephews.

Though not a morning person, once she was up, Sarah took life with gusto and aplomb. She was utterly selfless with her family and friends and kind and gracious to all, always seeking to be connected in relationships of respect and trust.

A celebration of Sarah's life will be held at Broadway Baptist Church, 4000 Brownsboro Road, Louisville, KY. There will be an outside gathering at 2:00 pm with a service in the Chapel at 3:00 pm. Another service is planned for this summer at the First Presbyterian Church in Richland, Michigan.

The family requests no flowers. Donations in her honor may be made to:

Richie Family Scholarship Fund with Caldwell County Scholarship Foundation, PO Box 229, Princeton, KY 42445 or

Richard and Sarah Newell Scholarship Fund at Georgetown College, 400 East College Street, Georgetown, KY40324 or

Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville, 1620 Bank Street, Louisville, KY 40203.