She once said her mission was to “Gather and feed all you can, as often as you can, because you never know if you’re feeding an angel.” Well done, Sunny Lou, mission accomplished.
Along the way, Sunny never ever met a stranger. She had a gift for spreading joy and boundless enthusiasm for her faith, her country, her family, and animals of all kinds. Sunny brought color to every pallet. She lived a vibrant life with a sense of humor, curiosity, kindness, and quiet courage through some tough health challenges. She gave the best of herself and her talents to lift others by sharing her message of love, patriotism, friendship, generosity, and compassion. The world may be a little less bright today, but her legacy lives on through all of us who loved her. We will never, ever forget our Star-Spangled Sunny Lou.
Born Saundra Lou on July 2, 1943, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Verlon and Essie Leo Hepp, she was the youngest of five children. She attended grade school in Oklahoma City and graduated from Harding High School. Somewhere along the way, Saundra’s bubbling personality spilled over into the nickname, Sunny, which stuck for the rest of her life. Following graduation, Sunny moved to Columbia, Missouri, to attend Columbia College and Finishing School. It was here she met a dashing young Air Force officer named Don Starling. After a three-month courtship, they were married in Oklahoma City.
Sunny Lou began life as an Air Force wife following her husband to Bermuda. Their next duty station was Plattsburgh, New York, where, in 1967, their first son, Don Richard Starling, Jr., was born. Their next assignment was Merced AFB in California, followed by Oklahoma City and Lawton, Oklahoma. The couple then moved to Wichita, Kansas, where their second son, Sam Alexander Starling, was born in 1976. Eventually, the couple moved their family to Marble Falls, Texas, where they made their home for 29 years.
While in Marble Falls, Sunny became an entrepreneur, creating a world-class boutique called “Sunny’s Carrousel,” which thrived for many years and was a popular tourist destination. The couple moved to China Springs, Texas in 2007, and Sunny Lou spent this next chapter of her life serving her community, giving to others and lifting them with her talent for extraordinary hospitality. Sunny relished the beautiful Texas sunsets from their deck high above China Springs and enthusiastically shared the Starling’s beautiful home with countless visitors. She used her creativity to decorate, feed and surround each new friend with 100% love and Sunny Lou’s unique brand of contagious joy.
In July of 2022, Don and Sunny Lou celebrated their Sixtieth Wedding Anniversary.
She was a faithful and active member of the Wednesday Bible Study and Columbus Avenue Baptist Church. She also participated in Bible Study Fellowship, Good Time Garden Club, Historic Waco, East Terrace House Committee and Attic Treasures, the Texas Independence Day Fund, and Mission Waco/ Mission World Style Show. She also loved the mission of Pieces of the Heart and volunteered at Shepherd’s Heart.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Verlon and Essie, son Donny, and sisters Frances Husted, Tena Combs, and Lynn Benedict.
Those surviving to honor her memory include husband, Don R. Starling, son Sam, his wife Deanna, and three grandchildren, Piper, Makensie, Harrison and sister Betty Smith of Friendswood, Texas. Also honoring her memory are countless nieces and nephews who loved their aunt Sunny Lou almost as much as she loved all of them.
Sunny Lou Starling was one-of-a-kind, and she will continue to be honored and remembered by every soul whose life she touched with her kindness, enthusiasm, and joy.
“Happy is she who believed the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.”Luke 1:45. Indeed, she believed, and now Sunny Lou Starling is living God’s best promise!
Personal note: Sunny was not a WASP, she was a cheerleader -- for our country and for the WASP. She made our Wings Across America offices sparkle last Veteran's Day, insisting that she could help create an event to truly honor the WASP, and make my mom proud. She sure did. This is my way to honor her for her own service to our country. Thank you for always going above and beyond, Sunny Lou. We will always love you.