Durango resident Sara Ann Wakefield died of nonviral spinal meningitis with complications of pneumonia Wednesday, July 10, 2013, at her home. She was 35.
Ms. Wakefield was born to Steven J. and Jeannine Wakefield on Oct. 27, 1977, in Springfield, Ill. She grew up with her single father in Florida, California and Colorado, graduating from Chatfield High School in Littleton.
During her senior year, Ms. Wakefield was an exchange student in Cronulla Beach, Australia, and remained close to her extended family there. While in Australia, she realized some of her surfer friends were getting sick because of raw waste dumped in the ocean and organized a protest that drew thousands of protesters and every television station in the Sydney area.
“It was where she learned she could change the world,” her father said.
After her high school graduation, Ms. Wakefield moved to Durango to attend Fort Lewis College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in ethnobotany in 2002. She lived in Mancos for the next decade, where she co-founded and co-owned Zuma Natural Foods.
On Nov. 14, 2003, she married Timothy Allen White at FLC in Durango. The marriage ended in divorce in 2006.
Ms. Wakefield worked briefly as the town administrator in Ignacio before going back to school to earn her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado at Denver Health Science Center.
She went on to become the executive director of the Navajo Nation Green Economic Mission and the Bridge Homeless Shelter in Cortez from 2010 to 2012. She served as the executive director of Manna Soup Kitchen in Durango from 2012 until earlier this year.
“She was always bringing strays home,” her father said, “anyone who didn’t have a place to stay or needed a hand up.”
Ms. Wakefield continued to be active in social justice and environmental issues throughout her life as a member of Seeds of Peace and Earth First!
In her spare time, she was a yoga instructor and enjoyed anything outdoors, including downhill and cross country skiing, hiking, rafting, camping, surfing and scuba diving. She also enjoyed chanting with Durango and Mancos Kirtan.Ms. Wakefield is survived by her daughter, Elizabeth “Ellie” Braiden White, 9, of Mancos; father and stepmother, Steven J. and Shay Wakefield, of Evergreen; mother, Jeannine Wheeler, of Champaign, Ill.; brother, Steven Carl Wakefield, of Lebanon, Kan.; stepbrothers Jason Wheeler and Tyler Wheeler, both of Champaign; grandmother Hazel Elena Wakefield of Springfield; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and expanded family members.
A celebration of life was held Sunday, July 14, 2013, at Boyle Park in Mancos.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Trust Fund for Elizabeth Braiden White, c/o Centennial Bank, 13700 East Arapahoe Road, Centennial, CO 80112.