Sarah Fallingwater was a caring and strong-willed person who loved to explore her creative side through different artistic avenues. Fallingwater was formerly a certified nursing assistant (CNA) but struggled with severe mental health issues that led to methamphetamine abuse and about a decade living homeless prior to her death. She was 45 years old.
Fallingwater, who’s last name is attributed to her mother, Pat Rankin’s, “hippie days,” was born on Aug. 13, 1976, in Cottage Grove. She grew up in Eugene, where she attended River Road Elementary School, Colin Kelly Middle School and Opportunity Center for high school.
Pat Rankin says Fallingwater loved going to motorcycle shows with her dad, Jeff Rankin. She also enjoyed being artistic, and demonstrated this passion through things like poetry, drawing and cooking.
“She loved flowers and purple things and dressing up, all those kinds of girly things,” Rankin says.
Fallingwater dealt with mental health struggles and dabbled with meth throughout most of her life. But she loved caring for people, and received her GED and went on to be a CNA on and off between about 1996 and 2011. While working, Rankin says, Fallingwater was clean and doing well and enjoyed helping her clients.
Rankin says that, quite suddenly, Fallingwater decided to go out to a bar, and things permanently fell apart from there. Fallingwater spent the last 10 years of her life unsheltered.
“We tried so hard to get her help,” Rankin says. “But the system is so broken that every time we tried to address the mental health issues and they found meth in her blood they’d say, ‘We can’t help you.’ The system’s so broken that they couldn’t see that the meth was a symptom and not the cause.”
Fallingwater passed away on Oct. 4 due to cardiogenic shock, a condition in which your heart cannot supply blood to vital organs. She is survived by her brother and nephew, who prefer not to be named; her parents, Pat and Jeff Rankin, and her ex-husband, Derrick Jansson.
Rankin says Fallingwater’s family plans to scatter her ashes and will be making a donation to White Bird Clinic’s Front Rooms and NEST programs, two programs that helped Fallingwater many times, in her name. Rankin invites others in the community to do the same.
Eugene Weekly seeks to run an obituary for every person who dies homeless in Lane County in 2021. This is the 12th we’ve published so far. If you know of someone who has died while homeless this year, please let us know at Editor@EugeneWeekly.com.