From Where I Sit: A life remembered

From Where I Sit: Anita Sherman

The drive to Upperville on Friday was blissful. Northern Fauquier County continues to be blessed with postcard perfect scenery of seemingly endless hills of rolling pastureland dotted only by estates, wineries, and farms. And then there are the horses and cattle, gaggles of geese and solitary hawks perched on barren trees scanning the meadows for their next meal.

It was the texture of this countryside, the opportunities for pulling out her camera and the return to horse country that had brought my friend and fellow journalist Sarah Greenhalgh back to the Piedmont, back to the whisperings of politicians, the gossip in the horse set and the clicking of fingers on deadline. She’d returned after stints in Florida and Maryland and she was back in a newsroom working for the Winchester Star as a government reporter in early 2012.

She relished the return to Middleburg and Warrenton, her old haunts, watching and photographing polo matches and steeplechase races at Great Meadow, and reconnecting with family and friends.

She’d found a small rental in Upperville and she was happy commuting to Winchester. All seemed right with the world.

Sarah lived a gusty and robust life, it wasn’t without grief and angst but she attacked it voraciously. In the end, by some twist of ill fortune, Sarah’s life was taken tragically.

Responding to a house fire on July 9, 2012, responders found her lifeless body inside. Soon after, it was learned that it wasn’t the flames surrounding her that killed her. No, it was a coward’s bullet.

To date, Sarah’s murderer has not been caught.

As I drove to Upperville on Friday, I reminiscenced about Sarah with her mane of golden hair, her snarkiness, wit, sophisticated and often raw humor, her smartness and her vulnerability.

Sarah was so strong, she had a magnificent persona and sadly it took a bullet to silence her.

Sarah shares her name with her mother, Sara Lee.

It was Sara Lee, her friend Jean, and her niece Lee Price, that I was meeting up with in Upperville. Sara Lee is no longer raging at her daughter’s death. She would like to see closure, justice, the perpetrator apprehended but grief has taken her on another path and she chooses to focus on all that was good and positive about her daughter. She laughs at past escapades and shortcomings. She delights in hearing stories about Sarah that she hasn’t heard before, places that she visited, or things she liked or despised.

She was wearing one of Sarah’s sweaters. I recognized the bulky knit with an African motif. It’s bright background had zebras, cheetahs and monkeys. It was very Sarah. She’d been to Africa, photographed the beasts there in their power and majesty.

We shared a delicious lunch at Hunter’s Head interspersed with chapters from Sarah’s life all viewed from our different perspectives.

In scanning the dessert menu, we all wondered what choice sweet thing Sarah would have chosen. In the end, we all shared a Nutella Cheesecake. It was nestled in a thick, rich caramel sauce, a perfect chocolate crust and freshly chopped pecans. It was divine. Sarah would have loved it.

Before spooning off bites, Sara Lee suggested we sing.

In unison, we softly sang ‘Happy Birthday to Sarah.’

The cemetery at Trinity Episcopal Church is a place of utmost serenity, charm and reverence. There are not many tombstones. Many are family plots.

Sara Lee will be forever grateful to Rev. Rob Banse, Jr. for allowing Sarah to be buried here. She was not a member of the church but Upperville had been her last home.

Sara Lee carried a large bouquet of spring flowers – yellow roses, carnations and lavender daisies. She placed them on Sarah’s granite marker arranging and rearranging them just so in their container.
She fussed over ones that weren’t standing properly.

Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh
March 21, 1964 – July 9, 2012
Fortezza Ed Umilitade E Largo Core

Sarah’s marker bears the mission and philosophy of Oldfields School, her high school alma mater. Taken from Dante, the Italian translates to Courage, Humility and Largeness of Heart.

She was all that. Perhaps not so much on the ‘humble’ part – that trait didn’t suit her personality but no doubt courageous and generous to a fault.

Sarah was 48 when she was killed. Had she lived, she would have been 50 on Friday. No doubt, she would have celebrated in some grand way. She would never have gone gently into that good night.

Happy Birthday, my wild, witty and wonderful friend Sarah.

Your presence among us is missed.

Editor’s Note: The investigation by the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office is ongoing into the death of Sarah Greenhalgh nearly two years ago. Fauquier County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Fisher does not label Sarah’s death a cold case. The apprehension of her killer continues.