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Sarah Sudbeck Nelson passed away peacefully at home on August 31, 2022, surrounded by her loving family. She passed after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Sarah was born on November 13, 1939, in Lexington, Mississippi to the late Louisa and Clemens O’Reilly Sudbeck, known as C.O. or Sut. She grew up helping out in her family’s country store and on the family farm. Sarah, sometimes called Sarah Evelyn or Sut, was the eldest of two daughters. She graduated from Lexington High School in 1957 as Miss Lexington High, in recognition of her spirit and contributions to the school community, traits that would show themselves time and time again throughout her life.
Following high school, Sarah went on to earn her Registered Nurse degree in Memphis. Although Sarah found nursing fulfilling, she discovered a natural talent for interior design. After she and her then husband, William Timothy Jones, settled in Jackson, she soon opened her interior design business, Sarah Jones Interiors, which she successfully ran until retiring in 2012. In her interior design work, which she loved, Sarah was a creative force, bringing new ideas from around the country to each of her assignments. She had an eye for the right color or piece of furniture that would make a room just right. Clients valued her work, but also enjoyed the process of working closely with her to realize their shared vision.
In 1981, Sarah married Dr. Phil Otis Nelson, Jr., the love of her life. They enjoyed a forty-one-year marriage of devotion, joy, travel, and fun. Sarah and Phil had a happy and adventurous life, traveling on bicycle trips in Europe and North Africa and visiting the Caribbean, Florida, and various other spots in the United States with their close friends of many years. While Sarah relished these travels, she most loved time spent with those close friends, catching up on life, laughing at small things, and offering words of encouragement when needed. Few people in life could make friends faster or keep them longer.
Sarah was “active” in every positive sense of that word. She was a competitive tennis player and she did not like to lose, just ask anyone who had the good fortune to be a couple points up on her during a match at the River Hills Club. One of her proudest moments came when she played in the finals for the Mississippi team that won the 4.5 women’s national championship in 1990. Sarah was thrilled to win, but took greatest pride in the accomplishments of her “team” and the journey they went on together in winning the championship.
Sarah was an active and sustaining member of the Junior League of Jackson as well as many other social, civic and charitable groups. She was a woman with “big ideas” and a proven ability to get things done. Those qualities led her to serve on boards at St. Andrew’s School, Jackson Prep, and Piney Woods School. She also served on the board for the Mississippi Ballet where she proved to be a successful fundraiser and inspired innovation. Also, Sarah took great pride in being a founding member of the Fondren Renaissance Board and the subsequent revitalization of the local community she and Phil called home. Her many volunteer efforts culminated in the Mississippi Legislature honoring as the 2009 Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year for the State of Mississippi.
For twenty years Sarah and Phil spent half of each year at their “home away from home” in Cashiers, located in the North Carolina mountains. Just as in Jackson, Sarah had a positive, enduring impact on the Cashiers community. While there she was Chairman of the Board of the Cashier’s Historical Society, Chaired the Designer Showcase that raised money for Historical Preservation as well as running the Church of Good Shepherd’s Auction and Bazaar. Sarah inspired enthusiasm and energy in others for every cause she embraced. Whether she was in Jackson or Cashiers, one thing remained the same—her deep devotion to friends and family and ability to make others feel seen and valued.
Sarah and Phil were faithful members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson and the Good Shepherd Church in Cashiers.
Sarah is survived by her husband Dr. Phil Nelson, her sister Betty Lynn Hunt and her husband David, children, Sarabeth Jones, Dr. Becky Taylor, Rachel Gressett and her husband Linzy, her step-children, Phil Nelson his wife Judy, Mark Nelson, Paul Nelson and his wife Brenda, her grandchildren, who lovingly referred to her as “Ging-Ging”, Kellie Nelson, Meg Meagher, Colin Meagher, Bobby Meagher, Annie Taylor, Jacob Taylor, Shelby Nelson, Ava Nelson, Paul Nelson, Liam Gressett, and Amelia Gressett.
A memorial service was held on Friday, September 9th at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral at 11:00 am.
The family would like to give special thanks to Hospice Ministries for helping Sarah through her final days. Any memorials may be made in her honor to the MIND Center for Alzheimer’s Research at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 N. State Street, Jackson, MS 39216; the Piney Woods School, 5096 US 49, Piney Woods, MS 39148; or St. Andrew’s Cathedral, 305 E Capitol St, Jackson, MS 39201.

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