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Sarah Catherine Covington Crooke
November 22, 1933 - December 10, 2023
On November 22, 1933, Sarah Catherine Covington was born on the Lucas farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Sarah was the sixth of nine children, the youngest girl born in the midst of five boys. Competitive by nature and motivated to keep up with her older siblings, Sarah excelled in every sport and graduated first in her class from Queen Anne’s County High School. She earned a full scholarship to St. John’s College in Annapolis, where she was part of the first co-ed class. At St. John’s, Sarah met Eric Crooke, a witty young man from New Jersey. Both Sarah and Eric were quiet by nature, and her father joked that it must have been a “silent courtship.” Her aunt commented that “Sarah talks only to Eric, and Eric talks only to God.” But it was love, and they married in her family’s home on December 28, 1955.
After graduating in 1955, Sarah studied mathematics at Ohio Wesleyan University and worked at North American Aviation, where she learned to program some of the earliest computers and helped design one of the first planes to break the speed of sound. In 1959, Eric and Sarah moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where Sarah’s highly classified job allowed her to use cutting edge technology – an IBM 709 that filled an entire room. They moved to Silver Spring in 1961, and Sarah began a career at the Goddard Space Flight Center, working on the NASA Orbiting Geophysical Observatories project. In 1967, Sarah entered the University of Maryland’s new Computer Science program and earned her Master’s degree in 1970. Eric and Sarah’s son, John, was born later that year. Their second son, Eddie, came along shortly after. Sarah decided to leave Goddard to focus on raising her boys.
As Eric wrote, Sarah “never does just one of anything.” Having moved to the Hillandale neighborhood in 1963, Sarah and Eric devoted themselves to their community, the nearby Episcopal Church of Our Saviour, and eventually the local schools. Involved in PTA leadership throughout her boys’ schooling, Sarah guided the purchase of seven Commodore PET computers for the boys’ school in 1983 and then developed the first elementary school computer programming curriculum in Montgomery County. Sarah contributed to and helped publish the monthly community newsletter – the Hillandaler. She played tennis regularly with friends, never abandoning her competitive spirit. Over several decades, Sarah made thousands of handmade ornaments for the church bazaar, and gingerbread cookies and houses for neighborhood and church holiday parties. She catered dinners several times a year for local retirement communities, and she recruited her boys and their friends to wait on the elderly residents. She managed the snack bar at Our Saviour’s monthly rummage sale, where her delicious pies were legendary.
Sarah soon became known as “The Pie Lady.” Her lemon meringue pie beat every other pie at the county fair to earn a giant Best-in-Show ribbon, and she later won the state Crisco Pie Bake-Off for her strawberry pie, going on to represent Maryland at the national competition in Nashville. Friends sometimes used her pies as enticements to politicians to garner support for local community projects, prompting one former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland to ask, “What do I have to do to qualify for a pie?”
Sarah lived in her Hillandale home for sixty years. Her house was the family gathering place for Thanksgiving dinners which sometimes included over sixty guests and always involved a football game in the backyard. Over the decades, she and Eric cared for elderly family members in their home for their final years. When the boys were young, Sarah delivered Meals On Wheels, a tradition that she and Eric continued after his retirement. They almost always ended up at the original Ledo Restaurant in Adelphi for lunch.
An avid reader, Sarah compiled and collected family stories, recipes and poems. She authored three cookbooks, sharing her award-winning pie recipes and donating all proceeds from the sales to local organizations. In later years, from her recliner, Sarah managed a fantasy football team, followed politics, and wrote several books about her family and the Hillandale community. Her books reflected a deep love for both the rural Eastern Shore where she grew up and the diverse, urban community where she chose to live. For the past several years, Sarah was able to live at home with help from angels at A-Care Services.
On December 10, 2023, Sarah passed away surrounded by her boys and their families. She was predeceased by her husband, Charles Eric Crooke, and siblings Peggy, Joe, Henry and Tom. She is survived by siblings Dolly, Mary, Charles and Alfred, her two sons, John Kieffer Crooke (Kendra Chappell) and Edward Covington Crooke (Lauren Crooke), her three grandchildren, Evelyn Courtenay Crooke, Eric Joseph Crooke and Owen Covington Crooke, and many other family members and friends who will miss Sarah very much.
The family will receive visitors on Sunday, December 17, 4pm-7pm at Borgwardt Funeral Home in Beltsville. A memorial service will be held Saturday, January 20, 2024, 11am at Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring. (https://www.episcopalcos.org).
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to either of the following organizations:
So Others Might Eat “SOME” https://some.org/donate OR
Starr Church Maintenance Fund
℅ Dolly Taylor 1557
Grange Hall Road Centreville, MD 21617
(memo on check: In Memory Of Sarah Crooke)
For those who cannot attend the memorial service in person, the service will be available to watch online on Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81925516329?pwd=aXVOYUJJazBUYXBma0ZFWGlsRFVxUT09
S.O.M.E. So Others Might Eat
71 O Street NW, Washington DC 20001