Saroj Sattsangi was born into the forested humid environs of southern India in Raghavapuram on November 1, 1935 to Goruganthula T. Prasadam and E. Rathnam Bhaktul Prasadam. She enjoyed a life that spanned eras and continents. Saroj was the 8th out of an eventual 10 children that relished each other’s company with the elders organizing the youngsters for family music bands and summer magazines. She functioned as a lookout during the mischievous escapades of her older brothers and was an emissary for requests to their stern but loving school principal father.
Physically delicate, but ever inquisitive, Saroj excelled at academics, coming in as the gold medalist (valedictorian) for her bachelors and masters degrees. Despite parental requests to pursue a career as a school teacher and start a family, she forged ahead in advanced studies with support from an older brother. Saroj became the first female botany PhD from Osmania University. She was a source of pride for her siblings and an inspiration to their children. The girls in particular took note of Saroj’s demonstration of the expanded role for women in the world. Soon her reputation in botany led to a visiting research position at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign.
At Illinois Saroj would add another dimension to her life, marrying avid musician, photographer, and PhD organic chemist, Dr Prem Sattsangi. Their love for each other, science, and music spanned a long marriage. The young couple traveled back to India and returned again to Illinois with their first child, Hem, and added a second, Sharad, soon after. Saroj’s compassionate and sensitive nature made her a natural fit to the role of a mother, and she took leave of the career that consumed her early years to focus on cooking for, caring for, and educating her children.
Three years passed and the young family would permanently relocate to Uniontown Pennsylvania. Saroj appreciated the beauty of the mountains and the friendliness of her neighbors. She also became a part of a fledgling Indian community. At gatherings, Saroj was known for her homemade gulab jamuns and burfis. The community grew, and special occasions like Diwali became more elaborate, evolving from conversations in a living room to talent show extravaganzas at the local college. Saroj actively participated in organizing these events, always maintaining her famous humor during the chaos. She greatly valued her close friendships and several were formed through the Uniontown Indian community.
The children starting school full time gave Saroj the room to accommodate both her passion for family and for science as she started a career as a researcher at West Virginia University. She worked tirelessly, balancing the demands of home and work, and was as focused on cooking, cleaning, and caring for her family as she was on her experiments in the lab. Saroj managed labs for grateful principal investigators, made key contributions to several papers in microbiology and biochemistry, and even jointly published with Prem.
In January 1995, Saroj bid adieu to the daily hours of commuting and research. She retired to a more relaxing schedule of communicating with friends and family around the planet, attending concerts with Prem, and, returning to the love that originally attracted her to botany. She started raising flowers in her garden, mainly peonies, roses, and tulips. Saroj also enjoyed traveling back to India to visit her cherished extended family.
Her family in the US had grown with the addition of Ann, a wonderful and intelligent daughter in-law. Within a few years, the grandchildren she would adore, started arriving every other year. First Yamuna, then Nandini, and finally Pavan. Saroj was a warm and devoted dadi (grandmother) attending birthday parties, concerts, and athletic events. She was well known amongst the grandkids for her cooking, and her skill at tickling their father, uncle, and most anyone else.
Saroj and her siblings watched strong bonds develop amongst their children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. For Saroj, it was the connections with loved ones that maintained her spirits throughout her life. As tired as she may be in her final year, she would perk up at photos or news about those close to her. During her last several weeks and through her final hours, she was surrounded by grandchildren, family, and extended family, both in person and on-line. She exited this world early on the morning of July 13th, 2020, in her home in Uniontown, PA, leaving it better than she found it. Saroj was well loved, and is remembered for her intelligence, wit, compassion, humor, and sensitivity.
Left to cherish Saroj’s memory are her husband, Prem D. Sattsangi; son and daughter in-law, Hem and Ann Satsangi, son Sharad Satsangi; sisters, Venamma Harding and Sheela Barnbas; and grandchildren, Yamuna, Nandini, and Pavan Satsangi.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the ANDREW D. FERGUSON FUNERAL HOME, Inc., 80 Morgantown Street, Uniontown, PA, which is hosting a private virtual ceremony for family and friends on Sunday, July 19, 2020 from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m.
Further information on Saroj may be found at adferguson.com or on the funeral home Facebook page where memories and condolences may be shared with the family as well.
Donations in memory of Saroj can be made to the Epilepsy Foundation, 8301 Professional Plaza West, Suite 230, Landover, MD 20785 or via the web at: donate.epilepsy.com/donate.