Sara Jane Westbrook White passed away peacefully at home on July 12, 2020 at age 84, from complications following a fall. She was surrounded by her family and beloved husband of 42 years, Dr. Robert E. White. She was a beautiful person who, throughout her life, quietly set a strong example to her family and friends of faith, determination, and integrity.
The only child of Mary Frances Stevens Westbrook and Charles A. Westbrook, Sara Jane Westbrook was born in Waco, Texas in 1936. Her family soon moved to San Antonio, where her father established the Westbrook Lumber Company. Sara Jane graduated from Alamo Heights High School, followed by two years at Mary Washington College in Virginia. There she developed an early interest in social justice and urban issues triggered by the Civil Rights movement.
In 1955, at age 20, she married high school classmate Frank Blair Warren in San Antonio and began her family. In 1968, with three active children, Sara Jane enrolled at Incarnate Word to complete her college degree, followed by a scholarship to Trinity University for a Master's in Urban Planning, awarded in 1972. Sara Jane then worked for six years in San Antonio as a city planner, where she coordinated the River Corridor Committee tasked with revitalizing the historic downtown. Tipped off to a new source of federal economic development funding by Mayor Lila Cockrell, Sara Jane wrote the grant application that secured unexpected major funding for the new Olmos Dam. With downtown flood control thus ensured, further development grants could be approved that allowed the River Walk to become the centerpiece of San Antonio culture that it is today.
Her first marriage having ended, in 1978 Sara Jane met and married Austin native Dr. Robert Elliott White and joined him in Sugar Land, Texas. She continued her planning career, working ten years for the City of Bellaire. Subsequently she consulted for small towns and special projects, and during that time was instrumental in developing the zoning in Houston's Third Ward, enabling the culturally impactful Project Row Houses. Not quite finished with higher education, in 1994 she was awarded a PhD in Political Science from Rice University.
Sara Jane was active in numerous professional planning organizations. She was a charter member of the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association and served as Chapter president. In 2000 she was inducted in New York to the American Institute of Certified Planners as a fellow -- a high career honor -- and she also held leadership roles in the American Planning Association (APA) and volunteered as an advisor to other planning organizations.
A seminal event in Sara Jane's life was the loss of her younger son, John William Warren, to brain cancer in 2004. In her efforts to come to terms with the loss, she wrote and published a book, "John's Story," which has been a comfort to other sufferers of that terrible disease.
As a longtime member of Christ Church Sugar Land, Sara Jane volunteered as a Stevens Minister, supported a women's prison ministry and enjoyed trips with Bob and the choir to perform around Europe. Not being endowed with a strong singing voice, Sara Jane would quietly sing along in order to enjoy the trips with her husband and choir friends. She also attended Sweetwater Christian Church with Bob.
Sara Jane was active with the YMCA Texas Youth and Government, and volunteered as an academic mentor for Fort Bend County schools, for Fertile Ground Redemption Transformation Center, and was a long-time participant in the Houston Junior League Transfer sustainers' group. In later years she sustained a strong interest in her family history, tracing several family genealogies back to the Revolutionary War.
Bob and Sara Jane enjoyed traveling with friends and also spent time in their San Antonio condo with grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and her childhood friends, the Alamo Heights Belles. The Whites also sipped and socialized with their long-time wine tasting group and several other lasting associations including their Koinonia group, a Bible Study, and an academic book club focused on the work of C.S. Lewis.
Sara Jane was a lovely lady with a beautiful smile, and as her health faded, the smile stayed, always there as a sweet welcome to all. She is survived by her loving husband Dr. Robert E. White, children Sally Warren and husband Jeff Jackson of Dallas, West and Dana Warren of San Antonio, Lisa Warren of Sugar Land, Rene and Houshyar Moarefi of Houston, Kim and Tate Erlinger of Austin, Scott and Kristal White of Houston, grandchildren Mary Kaitlin Motley, Carly Warren, Lydia Jackson, Will Jackson, Matthew Warren, Sara Haddox, Michael Warren, and Henry Erlinger. She also was blessed with five bouncing great-grandchildren.
Due to covid-19, private viewings may be arranged by appointment at Stettegast-Kopf funeral home in Sugar Land, 281-565-5015. A private family service will be held on Wed 7/15, followed by interment at Oakwood Cemetery in Waco, Texas. Memorial donations may be made to: Texas A&M Health Science Center, note “John W. Warren Brain Tumor Fund” on memo line, and mail to Department of Neuroscience, 8447 Riverside Parkway, Bryan, TX 77807.
Texas Oral History Project - Sara White, FAICP
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