Sara H. McKay
Sara Hayden McKay passed peacefully on October 22, 2019 after a stroke stopped her when nothing else could. She now sings in the heavenly choir, which has been her lifelong dream - along with meeting Mozart. Many of you may assume she is directing the choir, and you would probably be right! Step aside, Handel.
Her life's passion was to bring great works of choral music to local audiences and to make jams and pies and shortbread cookies to thank people for their support! She would be making a lot of jam now to thank all of you who have been so supportive during this time!
Sara grew up the eldest of five wonderful sisters who sang together in harmony and were even featured on the television show, "I've Got a Secret." John McKay met Sara when she lived in Montreal for a year with her family, and he asked to carry her books down the hill from school (he was in 8th grade, she was in 7th.) Later, he saw her on a bus, and noticed that she thanked the driver as she got off. He vowed to do that from then on. That was also the only year he got 2nd place in the citywide talent contest when a group of sisters dressed alike, singing in harmony won 1st place! They re-met when they both attended McGill University. Sara said when she heard John play the piano, the heavens opened, and she saw the stars and planets circling in harmony and knew their lives were to be intertwined.
Originally from Nova Scotia, it's no wonder one of her favorite places was Harmony Lake, where her family had a cabin. Sara lived in many places but was so happy to arrive in Saint Peter, MN in 1976. She loved this community and co-founded the Saint Peter Choral Society in 1979. She taught music for 22 years in Arlington exposing children to opera, classical composers, and Broadway musicals. She was a favorite adjudicator of music competitions at the high school level and kept everyone in stiches with her stories. Sara and John are being inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame on November 1st, 2019.
John and Sara were married for 55 years. They shared a love of the arts and highly recommend attending the live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera at Cinemark in Mankato! They spent their honeymoon at Stratford, Ontario seeing Shakespeare and spent many a summer vacation driving to Shakespeare festivals in Winona, MN and Spring Green, Wisconsin. They lived together in Brussels, Belgium for five years where Sara sang in an elite choir which toured Europe. Sara is survived by her husband, John and their three children, Johanna, Murray and Elizabeth who have enjoyed many a fabulous birthday party where Sara had the young guests sing Nova Scotian folk songs such as "The Tune the Old Cow Died On", and played games like "Broom Dance" and "Magic Spot on the Floor." Heaven has her now and she will be waiting for each of us with arms outstretched - with a folder full of music.
Memorials preferred to the family or Saint Peter Choral Society, In Defense of Animals, Friends of the Earth, St. Joseph's Indian School, Tiger Preservation Center, Center for Biological Diversity, National Research Defense Council, Union Presbyterian Hymn Fest.
Published on October 24, 2019


Plant a tree in memory
of Sara
Plant a tree

Obituary published in


Print Guestbook

A place to share condolences and memories.
The guestbook expires on January 22, 2020.

Showing 10 of 26 posts

Kira Theimer Morrissey
Nov 13, 2019
My heartfelt condolences and warmest regards to Dr. McKay and family. You are in my prayers.
Mary and Bill Burkett
Nov 07, 2019
For almost a decade we sang in various choirs Sara directed. We learned a lot about artistry and professionalism from her. We have sung in many choirs since and every so often we are reintroduced to a piece we sang for her, and tell ourselves 'It's not the same as singing it for Sara.' We were grateful for friendship with her and John and their family. She was a great artist and is a great loss.
Sharon Marshall
Oct 28, 2019
Sara bought music to a whole, new dimension for the students at SE. She never moved slowly but buzzed from one activity to another and from one classroom to another . You never uttered the words, "this is ok or good enough" . because she expected each of her students to work towards the very best. Her energy and emotions during high school musicals was unbelievable but the end results showed the fruits of her labor. I thank Sara for the role she played in encouraging my girls to not only perform, but to enjoy the fact that they could share it with others.
Listen for the choir of heavenly angels now!!
Lee Violet
Oct 28, 2019
Blue Caribbean was purchased for the family of Sara H. McKay by Lee Violet.  Send flowers
Becky (Stolt) Gadson
Oct 27, 2019
I was one of the many generations of students touched and inspired by Mrs. McKay’s passion for music. What a talent the heavens are welcoming home.
Rachel Hartl
Oct 26, 2019
Enchanted Cottage was purchased for the family of Sara H. McKay by Rachel Hartl.  Send flowers
The Rovinsky's
Oct 26, 2019
Words can not express my eternal gratitude for this woman and the many ways she inspired my children throught the years. My daughters have all pursued careers in theater and singing greatly in part to her teachings. She cast my oldest in her very first play as Elisabeth in A Christmas Carol. That same young woman now holds cast positions in both a Jane Austin and Shakespere theater improve troupes. The love and excitement my daughters continue to have for the arts is a direct result of Sara's initial joyous teachings. She has truly given our family a lifetime of amazement and joy. We are blessed to have known her.
Paul and Judy Tarabek
Oct 26, 2019
We remember Sara so fondly - all the beautiful music she shared with us and other musicians. She truly was a woman who lived life to the fullest. We are so lucky to have had her as a part of our musical lives. Thank you, Sara, for sharing your talents and dreams with us.
Mim Sponberg Kagol
Oct 26, 2019
Sara brought such good cheer, along with scones, jam and cream, when she visited her friend, our mom, Florence. We loved attending her concerts, too. She was a major talent. Blessed be her memory.
Tia (Kelley) Smythe
Oct 25, 2019
Mrs. McKay was the absolute best. We were so lucky to have her teach us. I’ve thought of her often over the years - she had such energy and passion. Condolences to her family.
Matthew Tupa
Oct 25, 2019
Mrs McKay was the most wonderful teacher I had at Sibley East. She was the main reason that I kept going to school. Helping me get outstanding at sectionals. She will be missed.
Matt Tupa class of 98