Sarah Bethany Saponara

Sarah Bethany Saponara

Unapologetically herself, musical, lightning, passionate, epic

Sarah was a force of nature who left a lasting impression on every life that she touched. She had a charismatic personality, superior musical talent, and a compassionate heart. She was a luminous presence on stage, on the field in the band, and brightened people’s lives with her powerful voice, dimpled smile, and contagious laughter. Sarah adored her siblings Liliana,14, and Miles, 4, and could bring people together whether it be through cooking, outdoor adventures, or playing guitar at gatherings. Her mother described her as “epic.”

Sarah was comfortable being herself and exploring the world in her own way. Her love of music started with refusing to play the basic tunes during her piano lessons, opting instead to show her teacher the melodies of songs she learned from listening to the radio. Sarah played over 17 different instruments, from recorders and harmonica to sax, clarinet, guitar, accordion, and drums. “Her performances made me cry, I was so proud of her,” her mother said. “Her singing and playing filled the house–she was the soundtrack to our lives.”

When she was in elementary school, everyone in Sarah’s class attended her birthdays, and she entertained them all. She graduated from high school then attended two years at Randolph-Macon College where her mother is a Spanish professor. She was studying psychology and planned to play music professionally and dreamed of opening a restaurant with unique pairings driven by psychology, mood, and emotion.

Sarah’s mother remembered a Disney on Ice performance they attended when Sarah was five. She told her mom “When I grow up, I want to be a prince, so I can kiss all the beautiful princesses.” Her mom tucked that moment away in her memory, and when Sarah later came out as gay, her mom said, “I already knew that” and shared the story with her. Sarah later told her mom how grateful she was that the coming-out moment was so anti-climactic, and she didn’t have to face the challenges so many people have in coming out to their families.

As a member and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, Sarah had a gift for teaching acceptance. She was voted the first openly gay homecoming princess and made it her life mission to help others feel comfortable being themselves, even as they were figuring out who they were or when others rejected them. No matter the topic; race, sexual orientation, immigrant rights, the Black Lives Matter movement or physical appearance, Sarah challenged people to question any preconceived or societal ideas and accept everyone. “She told people they didn’t need a label-they could just be themselves,” her mother said.

Lightning bolts have embodied Sarah’s energy since she was nearly struck by lightning. It was also her first tattoo. At Christmas 2020, her mother got her a lightning bolt bracelet, accompanied with a poem that reads in part: “Always remember that you have lightning deep inside your soul… always let your voice be heard and never quiet your thunder; keep shining, keep moving.” Sarah’s mom stated, “I know some parents struggle with stigma and don’t want to talk about how their kids died, but the more we talk about overdose death, the more chance there is to prevent it from happening to others.”

Sarah’s mother, Tricia Reagan, provided the information for this narrative.

September 27, 1999-February 17, 2021

Age 21-Lived with the disease of addiction 4+ years

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