Sara Ellen Gaffney Arell

January 9, 1945 - May 20, 2023
Sara Ellen Gaffney Arell



Gifts & Memorial Donations



This is my story….
If you are reading this obituary, it means that I have taken my last breath here on this beautiful home, my beloved mountains of Western North Carolina. I was born in Brunswick, Georgia, January 9, 1945, to the most wonderful Mom and Dad, Nell Campbell Gaffney and Ralph Leon Gaffney, who made the brilliant decision to move to Hendersonville, North Carolina, and rear their two girls here.

My beautiful blonde, blue-eyed sister, who always had to be first, was called too soon to heaven many more years than she should have been, and I have missed her terribly! Mama and Daddy both left way too soon and left a hole in my heart that could never be filled.

I am writing this myself because I know if my obit was written when I was 80 or 90 that whoever wrote it might not write about my interesting, loving and very meaningful life and you the reader might be bored. I’ll start with, “Wow, what a wonderful life I’ve lived!” All the little things about me that most of you already know – Immaculata, Hendersonville High, and the joys having my own mom as a teacher just made life a party! I was so fortunate in so many ways.

I started my grown-up life two weeks after my 18th birthday giving birth to daughter Deborah Leigh! All bundled up in a tiny pink blanket. When the nurse handed her to me, I knew immediately that my career was now set in stone and being a Mama would be my forever title from that day forward. February 19, 1963, was the first day of the rest of my life and Debbie and I would be doing it together! I was in love! Our first three years together were just out of a dream – she and I did everything together. I wore short white denim skirts with white sneakers, and she wore the same – every day we dressed alike. She was my twin, but for one thing – she had a temper and I’ve never had one. My little red-headed, freckle-faced munchkin was my best friend for life!

My sister Nell Gaffney Mims had moved from these much-loved mountains to Savannah, Georgia, to be with her then husband, John Mims. He was in the Air Force, and they were stationed at what was then Hunter Air Force Base. Debbie and I packed our worldly goods into my 1966 silver Mustang and headed for Savannah. My little 3-year-old and I thought we were going for a short visit – little did we know it was the beginning of the rest of our lives. I’ve never been a fan of blind dates, but brother-in-law insisted he had a buddy I just had to meet. I groaned, but said I’d meet him. I walked out the front door where my Mustang was parked to see the hood of it opened with a guy in fatigue pants and his head under the hood. It wasn’t until he turned around that I realized I wasn’t breathing – my heart was beating so fast. That, my dear friends, was on November 11, 1966, and on December 30, 1966, we married each other in the sweet little white chapel at Hunter Air Force Base.

It would take a novel to write all of our adventures during his 26 1/2 years of service to the Air Force, but they were happy fun-loving years. I had never been happier, and the happiness just grew and grew all those years. When Debbie was five, her Dad and I gave her a tiny little gift – Mark Richard Arell, born September 7, 1968 at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. Our hearts were full. Big sister Debbie doted on her little brother. We survived through the many military moves the temporary duty, and much time apart, but our love was so strong and nothing could have come between what we had. On August 16, 1973, our family grew again with the birth of another son Brian Campbell Arell at the Medical Center on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. We were one big happy family. Our children weren’t put to bed by the sounds of Mommy singing sweet lullabies, but by the roars of nightly military planes practicing touch and go landings – we lived almost directly across from the flight line. It was at Keesler Air Force Base that we found a calling to be foster parents. Foster parenting brought us such joy.

We had the opportunity to move to Izmir, Turkey, and spent over 2 years there in the mid-1980s. From there, we moved back to Shaw AFB, South Carolina. After over 26 years, my beloved Rich called me from a temporary duty in Saudi Arabia and told me when he came home, he was putting in his retirement papers. We moved back to my hometown Hendersonville and the biggest surprise of all – he became a police officer for the city of Hendersonville. He served there for 25 years and then retired again! I relished and adored my role as the wife of a man who by all standards has more integrity than any other man I’ve ever known. He’s always encouraged my love for our roles as foster parents (we fostered over 21 children), my role as a sexual assault advocate and guardian ad litem. I never once doubted that I was the love of his life and neither of us went very long without saying I love you to the other.

We were blessed on May 22, 1990, with Christopher Patrick Gaffney Arell – Buster, our youngest son.

My precious children Debbie Arell-Martinez (Ed), Mark Richard Arell (Kim), Brian Campbell Arell, and Christopher Patrick Gaffney Arell – I know you will keep me close in your hearts forever. No one will ever love you as much as I do. Thank you for letting me be your helicopter Mom.

My beautiful grandchildren, Jerrica Wild (George), Sara Wiggins (Steven), Lucy, Campbell, Rose, and Dirk – Nanny loves you more than you know.

We’re lucky enough to know our great grand-children, Landon and Carter and soon-to-be baby Wiggins – I’m glad I could be in your lives for a little while.

Rich, my beloved husband, you truly were the love of my life.

Sadly, I was preceded in leaving this beautiful earth of ours by my sister Nell Gaffney Harden, my parents who I loved so much Nell Campbell Gaffney and Ralph Leon Gaffney, my maternal grandmother Sadie Johnston Campbell, my paternal grandfather Roy Chester Campbell and my much-loved in-laws Eleanor Clark Morse Arell and Albert Armand Arell.

A Visitation – Celebration of Life will be Saturday June 3, 2023 from 2:00 PM till 4:00 PM at Church Street Funeral & Cremation, 125 South Church Street, Hendersonville, NC 28792. Flowers may be sent to the funeral home for the family, or family ask that donations be given to the Henderson County Foster Parent Association at PO Box 2332, Hendersonville, NC 28793.


Visiting Hours

Church Street Funeral & Cremation
  • Saturday, June 3, 2023
  • 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

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  • May 23, 2023
    Mack Bennett says:
    Precious Sara, You are such an important part of the Love and Happiness I always experienced when we were together. I so look forward to seeing you in Heaven which now is blessed with its newest Angel.

  • May 23, 2023
    Brenda Watson says:
    Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Arell family!!! the Watsons

  • May 23, 2023
    Kim & Jim Sabella says:
    With sincere sympathy to the entire Arell family at the loss of your sweet Sara. What a beautiful tribute she composed herself to remind you all how much she loved you and how happy she was in life.

  • May 23, 2023
    Frederica (Freddie) Saye Griffiths says:
    I will always remember you as long as I live. I was your first cousin, but I really was your little sister from another mother. Aunt Nell and Uncle Bill took me in and treated me as if I was their on child when my mother Emily was dying from Cancer. I loved your mom and dad, you, and little Nell so much. I didn't get to see you very often, but we had so many memories and fun when we were together. I will miss you my dear Sara Ellen for the rest of my life. I will see again one day when I am called home. Until then remember I love you.