Sara Brady Shatford lived a “tour de force” life, filling her nearly 100 years with accomplishments, compassion, friendship, and a zest for learning. Following her death in 2020, her children established the Sara Brady Shatford Endowment to honor her charitable spirit and her love of Pasadena.
Sara was born in Keokuk, Iowa, in 1921 but soon moved with her parents and three older brothers to Pasadena, which became her lifelong home. She attended Pasadena city schools through junior high, including the progressive and experimental Grant School. After graduating in 1939 from a Washington D.C. boarding school, she travelled in Europe with a cousin. They were in France on Sept. 1, 1939 when Poland was invaded, an event that found them fleeing across the country and boarding the last civilian ship (S.S. Ile de France) to leave France before the formal declaration of war. Back in Los Angeles, she attended UCLA, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1943 with a degree in history; she also worked at Caltech during this time on an aeronautical project to support the war effort.
Sara married Walter T. Shatford II in January 1945. They admired and loved each other deeply. Walter pursued a career as a lawyer and devoted much of his life to public service as a schoolboard member and Pasadena City College (PCC) trustee. The library at PCC is named in his honor.
A “Can-Do” Spirit
Endlessly curious, resourceful, and creative, Sara was able to do a wide range of things very well, including painting, tennis, and playing piano, a skill she taught herself. She was adept at household repairs, fixing plumbing and electrical problems, as well as refinishing and re-upholstering furniture. She patched clothing so that an old sweater became a work of art.
Sara “Sally” Layne, her daughter, says that her mother’s “can-do” spirit derived from early experiences in her life. At Grant School, she received a progressive education that allowed students to play an active role in determining what they wanted to study. Her older brothers included her in everything, and, growing up during the Great Depression, they all learned how to fix things themselves.
Sara was kind, loving, and generous, with a love of a good argument (or “discussion”) on just about any topic, from politics to philosophy to art to science. She welcomed everyone into her home and delighted in learning about other cultures and people. She appreciated the intricacies of others’ stories and how they differed from hers. Sally remembers that even though her mother was always busy doing several things at once, she was also always perfectly ready to sit and talk with someone for hours.
Sara earned a teaching credential at Cal State LA and took courses at PCC and participated in book groups. When her son Tom was diagnosed with schizophrenia, she became an advocate for the mentally ill and their families, helping to establish the local San Gabriel Valley chapter of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill (now National Alliance on Mental Illness). She served as president of the chapter in 1988 and was active for many years in suggesting and working on the many initiatives of the chapter. Her husband Walter participated with her, providing legal expertise. She subscribed to medical journals and attended conferences, always trying to find information that would help her son and others.
Honoring Sara’s Compassion and Generosity
Sara Layne and her brother Russell chose PCF because of its long history in Pasadena, the city where Sara arrived as a small child and spent her entire life. Her daughter notes that as she aged, Sara became even more charitable and wanted to respond to every solicitation that arrived in her mailbox, sending $25 donations out by the dozens. Her financial advisor told her about PCF and said, “here’s a great way to help many organizations and causes at once.” Sara and her brother find comfort knowing that their mother’s compassion and generosity will be honored with her endowment and will continue to support those causes she loved for years to come.
Created December 2020