Cal State Bakersfield is mourning the loss of an academic adviser who died from complications during childbirth Wednesday.
Sarah O'Steen McArthur worked in the School of Social Sciences and Education Advising Center, according to a campus memorandum from CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny. Her husband, Marshall McArthur, is the outdoor adventures coordinator at the Student Recreation Center.
Their child, Margaret Charles McArthur, is reportedly healthy and "absolutely beautiful."
O'Steen McArthur came to CSUB as a temporary administrative support coordinator in August 2016, later working as an administrative support coordinator in the School of Social Sciences and Education, according to the memorandum. In July 2017, she became an academic adviser for the school, serving as the advising liaison to the Department of Psychology.
She and her husband married in November 2017.
"Sarah was a hardworking advisor, dedicated to student success. She was kind and cheerful with a ready smile for everyone," Zelezny wrote in a campus-wide note to students and faculty.
"Sarah had a fabulous sense of humor and was known by her colleagues as a prankster. Her colleagues describe her as vibrant, positive and always ready to help."
"Carolina girls best in the world ... You're one of a kind sweet Carolina girls.
"... Sweet southern pearls you're sure enough tuff girl, I can't get enough of sweet Carolina girls."
The lyrics to General Johnson's "Carolina Girls" rang true as family members, friends and the Cal State Bakersfield community gathered Friday to remember a woman whose Southern charm and trickster nature brought a light to each of their lives.
Sarah O'Steen McArthur, 33, was an academic adviser for CSUB's School of Social Sciences and Education. Her husband, Marshall McArthur, is the outdoor adventures coordinator at the Student Recreation Center.
On May 21, O'Steen McArthur went into labor and arrived at Mercy Southwest Hospital, according to a GoFundMe account set up by The McArthur Family. She died during childbirth.
"I don't think I ever really told her how much I appreciated what a light she was in all our lives," said Mariah Martin, a friend of the family, letting tears flow with each word.
Pastor Tom Touchstone from Valley Bible Fellowship opened the ceremony with a prayer, and afterward friends and colleagues of O'Steen McArthur's shared personal anecdotes of their time together. More than 50 people attended the memorial, including her husband, their daughter and his parents, John and Dianne McArthur. They did not speak.
However, in an email to The Californian, the McArthur family said, "Sarah was cherished by her entire family and we are all grieving alongside Marshall and Margaret. We are grateful to the entire CSUB family and to the Bakersfield community for their continued love, support, and kindness."
Originally from North Carolina, O'Steen McArthur came to CSUB in 2016, and her colleagues immediately saw that behind that sweet southern charm was a prankster looking for her next victim.
"Sarah had the exceptional ability to listen and give you her undivided attention all while plotting her next prank or little white lie that would send the office into a frenzy, sometimes for hours, before revealing it had all been a joke," said Tanya Boone-Holladay, associate dean of the School of Social Sciences and Education. "With every little 'bless your heart' that left her lips, she was sending you a message all wrapped up with a bow on top ... dripping with sarcasm."
Boone-Holladay added O'Steen McArthur got a kick out of calling a colleague "old" every day and learning bad words in Spanish so she could say them in the office, which was met with laughter from the crowd.
Others shared how her antics were a fundamental part of her relationship with Marshall McArthur, who she married in 2017. Trae Mathews, coordinator of facilities and member services at CSUB, said she constantly posted videos on the app Snapchat of her messing with Marshall McArthur and their dog.
Advising center coordinator Yvette Morones, who described O'Steen McArthur as having a "1,000-watt smile," said another standout quality of her's was the way she interacted with students.
"Students loved her," she said. "She was able to relate to them and guide them ... it was always about them."
The love O'Steen McArthur and Marshall McArthur shared for each other was easy to sense, said Leah Bank, fitness and wellness coordinator. Marshall McArthur, from South Carolina, moved to Bakersfield first, and before O'Steen McArthur joined him, they would have daily phone calls that would sometimes interrupt meetings.
"This was replaced with their regular packed lunches outside of the Student Recreation Center sitting on picnic tables," Bank said. "It was such a treat to see them enjoying their time together every day."
About six weeks ago, O'Steen McArthur's colleagues put on a baby shower for her, and Boone-Holladay said they were very excited for Margaret McArthur's arrival into the world because "we were looking forward to being a part of Margaret's life."
Those who attended the memorial came up to hug Marshall McArthur, speak to his parents and catch a glimpse of their sleeping child in her stroller.
A GoFundMe has been set up for "Marshall’s immediate financial needs" which include funeral costs, travel and baby supplies, according to the account.
As of Friday, more than $77,000 of the $85,000 goal was raised. People can donate to the account at www.gofundme.com/support-for-marshall-mcarthur.
"We loved Sarah like a sister and will treasure all our memories with her, and we hope to someday share them with Margaret," Boone-Holladay said. "There will forever be a void in our family and a hole in our hearts.