Saundra "SJ" Joy Arnold-Smith

February 25, 1962July 30, 2018

Saundra Joy Arnold-Smith, known as SJ to those closest to her, passed away on July 30, 2018 after a long battle with illness.

Born in Indiana on February 25, 1962 her family soon moved to South Carolina to be close to her beloved grandparents, fondly nicknamed Mama-Cil and Daddy Roy. At age ten, her family relocated to Athens, GA, and SJ considered herself a native Athenian ever since. Always a good student, SJ completed a BSEd in Early Childhood Education in 1986 from UGA, after which she researched chicken nutrition in the Poultry Science Department. Motivated for change, she bravely pursued higher education and received an MEd in Guidance and Counseling in 2002. She felt blessed to serve as school counselor at Timothy Road Elementary, where she spread her kindness and love to students and staff alike until retiring in January 2018.

SJ touched many lives in her 56 years. She was preceded in death by her father, Tom Arnold, and her nephew, Tyler Arnold. Among the many she leaves behind are her mother, Carolyn Arnold, daughter, Lara Arnold-Smith (partner Blake Dye), partner-in-crime, Harriett Dugger, brother, Bruce Arnold (wife, Tammy), nephew, Hunter Arnold (fiancée Courtney Young), niece, Heather Fowler (husband, Travis), sister-in-law, Ellen Bryant (husband, Jimmy), nephew, John Bryant (wife, Shandra), nephew, Will Bryant, brother-in-law, Laurin Smith, ex-husband, Reg Smith (wife, You Ju Lee), and beloved geriatric beagle, Molly. In addition, SJ cherished her numerous grand nieces and nephews and countless friends.

Saundra was an active member of Chapelwood UMC for most of her life, where she brought joy to the congregants through her gift of song, strong faith, and warm friendship. She loved music and truly had a song for every occasion. She also had a passion for the outdoors and worked as a camp counselor and for the Youth Conservation Corps in her teens. She loved fishing, hiking, and camping, even with the challenge of toddlers in tow. She could entertain anyone with her jokes and stories, warming every soul she encountered. Always handy, she usually had several craft projects in progress, often with the goal of spreading joy to others. She was an avid gardener and excellent cook, and loved to share the fruits of her labor, from homemade apple butter to freshly picked snap peas. SJ loved to travel, whether she ended up in a hot tub on the porch of a remote mountain cabin or at the beach with her toes in the sand and a book in her hand.

She was a great friend and an exceptional mom, packing more mothering in her short life than many moms do in twice the time. Her tragic loss will be felt for a lifetime, but we are so thankful to have been blessed to know her at all.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to Children First Inc. or the Chapelwood UMC choir fund.

The family will receive visitors at a reception honoring her life from 11:00-1:00 p.m. at Chapelwood UMC on Saturday, August 4, 2018. A memorial service will follow immediately at 1:00 p.m.

Bernstein Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


  • Visitation Saturday, August 4, 2018
  • Memorial Service Saturday, August 4, 2018

Saundra "SJ" Joy Arnold-Smith

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Felita Johnson

July 31, 2018

My sincere heartfelt condolences. Sandra was a kind soul to me at Timothy Road Elementary. She graced the cafeteria with her presence in uplifting joy; whether excorting a family, students, getting her occasional breakfast, or serenading us with her instruments, she brought cheer. We connected concerning a few students under her wings. I’ll remember her with a smile.

Deanne Hill

July 30, 2018

Lara and Blake,
Kevin and I are sincerely sorry for your loss. We are thinking of you.

Pam Polhemus

July 30, 2018

I will always remember the wonderful summers spent in Central with Mama 'Cil, Daddy Roy, Saundra and Bruce. As years passed, we didn't get to see each other as much, but the "Dillard" family was always in my thoughts, prayers and memories. I look forward to the day I can see you again - with none of these earthly burdens!