Sarah Kailath (née Jacob) was born on 5 February 1941 in a small village in Kerala, in South India. Her first 21 years were spent largely in and around there; and she spoke almost exclusively in her mother tongue, Malayalam. With five older brothers, she soon developed the independent spirit that was her hallmark. After she had earned her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, a suitor from California came calling, and was smitten by her beauty, poise, and air of confidence. She wasn't as impressed as her parents by the young man’s doctorate from MIT, and was concerned about his not knowing Malayalam, but fortunately for Tom and the rest of us, Sarah decided to take the plunge.
Sarah and Tom were married on 11 June 1962, and left soon after for America, where they eventually set up home on Stanford campus. Ann arrived in December 1963, and Paul in February 1965. Sarah kept active through all this, quickly learning to outfit the home, cook, drive, bring up the children, manage her busy and already absent-minded professor/husband, make friends, and host many guests. Priya was born in July 1969, while the family was on sabbatical in Bangalore, and during this time Sarah earned another Bachelor’s degree, in Education.
Sarah’s drive and energy caused her to look beyond volunteer activities on her return to the Bay Area. Her teaching credentials led to jobs in local schools, but an invitation from a friend sparked her to join in owning and operating a store, Le Fromage (later Petit Gourmet) at the Stanford Shopping Center. She began with no knowledge of cheese or of business! --- but soon made her mark there as well, helped by seven devoted employees. Meanwhile, Ryan was born in December 1982, and when he was 9 years old, Sarah decided to retire from business. This allowed her to also devote time to several other activities that gave even fuller scope to her many talents. These activities included overseeing the building or remodeling of family residences in Palo Alto and Bangalore, taking up painting, and traveling extensively again. Along the way, she became a mother-in-law, with Tom’s former student Reji marrying Ann in 1989, and then grandmother to Deia in 1991 and Amaya in 1996.
Sarah’s cancer was discovered in August 2003. With the guidance of dedicated teams of doctors, nurses and staff, and the strong support of family and friends, she weathered it all --- and with characteristic courage, resilience, grace, and faith. In the last year in particular, she was happy to see many issues settled and many wishes realized, especially a charitable trust dedicated to the education and uplift of women and children in South India.
Sarah left us on October 15, 2008, very peacefully and surrounded by her family. A few days earlier, she had marked this passage from Ecclesiastes in her prayer book: "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.’’ Though we shall deeply miss her, her beauty, her smiles, her empathy and generosity, her warmth and good humor, her wisdom and her love, we rejoice in the example and in the wonderful memories and legacies that she has left us.