After more than a century of life, Sara Nickles Pruitt of Decatur, Georgia, died peacefully on January 12, 2017. She was 103.
She was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina on June 26th, 1913, the daughter of William Jefferson Nickles and Edith Leighton Nickles. She attended elementary school in Due West, South Carolina and graduated from high school in Greenwood, S.C. She attended Lander College in Greenwood, graduating in 1934 with an education degree.
After graduation she began her teaching career, a career that spanned 4 decades and touched the lives of thousands of young students. She took advanced education courses at the University of Virginia and taught first grade in South Carolina schools. She said her friends advised her to teach second grade because it was easier, but her first principal told her "you're a great first grade teacher and you're going to stay a first grade teacher."
In 1941 she married John Lamar Pruitt Jr. Eventually they moved to the Atlanta area, where she set teaching aside to concentrate on building a family. She had 3 sons, John Lamar Pruitt III, George Nickles Pruitt, and Alan Leighton Pruitt.
In 1952 she returned to her teaching career at Bassett's Kindergarten in Decatur. After several years there she joined the Dekalb County School System, which at the time was growing rapidly. Her first day on the job was opening day for Kittridge Elementary, and she taught first graders there until she moved to Briar Vista Elementary School where she taught until her retirement in 1978.
She was a much loved and admired teacher, and legendary Dekalb School Superintendent Jim Cherry appointed her to several task forces to improve education. She enjoyed the challenges those task forces provided, but she preferred to stay in the classroom with her first graders. And those first graders always remembered her with great affection. Many of them sent notes and gifts long after they had achieved success in their lives and careers.
She had many challenges in her life, but always prevailed and endured. She was a steel magnolia—tough as nails when she had to be, but always serene, prim, and proper—the essence of a southern lady.
She loved books and read voraciously—everything from Charles Dickens to Larry McMurtry and Maeve Binchy, her personal favorite. It was hard to find a book she hadn't already read at least once. And when her eyesight made reading more of a challenge, she indulged herself with listening to classic films on television and quoting her favorite poems from her infallible memory.
She was also a great fan of the Clemson Tigers football team, and, although she was too weak to watch last week's national championship game, she was able to muster a smile when told her beloved Tigers had prevailed.
She greatly enjoyed family celebrations involving her sons, their spouses, 6 grandchildren, and 13 great grandchildren. The last one came during the week of her 103th birthday in June. It was a joyful celebration of an ageless woman and a remarkable life.
Sara Nickles Pruitt was preceded in death by her parents, her husband John L. Pruitt Jr. of Atlanta, her son, Alan Leighton Pruitt of Clayton, Ga., her sisters, Edith Tarrant of Derita, N.C., Florence Wilson of Rock Hill, S.C., Jane Trimble of Falls Church, Virginia, and brothers George Newton Nickles of Cincinnati, Ohio, and James Nickles of Clinton, S.C.
She is survived by her sons, John L. Pruitt III of Atlanta and his wife Andrea, George N. Pruitt of Cleveland, Ga., and his wife Carole, and the widow of Alan L. Pruitt, JoAlice Ray of Clayton, Ga., 6 grandchildren, and 13 great grandchildren.
The family wishes to thank Deborah Watts for her loving dedication as well as the staff of Montclair Assisted Living.
A service to celebrate her remarkable life will be held at 11 am Thursday, January 19th, at Decatur Presbyterian Church where she was a longtime member. Family visitation will follow the service. It was Sara's wish that instead of flowers, donations be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation www.jdrf.org.