Cover photo for Sunshine (Ledbetter)  Wagner's Obituary
Sunshine (Ledbetter)  Wagner Profile Photo
1975 Sunshine 2023

Sunshine (Ledbetter) Wagner

April 21, 1975 — June 18, 2023

West Paducah

SUNSHINE LEDBETTER WAGNER passed peacefully in the arms of her mother, Sharon Hankins, on Sunday, June 18, 2023, after a long illness, at forty-eight years of age. Sunshine was born into this world on April 21, 1975. She grew to adulthood in the town of Ledbetter, Kentucky, which was founded by her ancestors. Many will recall, and have fond memories, of young Sunshine spending her days toddling around the grocery store, “Mutt’s Market,” in Ledbetter, Kentucky, which was owned by her parents and paternal grandparents, Mutt and Jeanette Ledbetter. Sunshine was beloved by them, and she was their only grandchild.

As she grew, Sunshine excelled at basketball and softball where she was a fierce competitor on the court and fields. She also bloomed into a great beauty obtaining the title of Miss Kentucky Outstanding Teen and Miss Tater Day. Sunshine was voted by national pageant directors as the top ten (10) percent of teenage participants for scholastic achievement, poise, and beauty. Sunshine was also granted the honor of becoming a Kentucky Colonel after winning a Kentucky state-sponsored speech competition. She was chosen “Most Dignified” as a senior superlative voted upon by her peers. Sunshine also pursued her life-long love of art by being selected as a representative by the Art Guild and the National Art Honors Society.

Sunshine continued her education at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee where she studied Art History and Business. Being possessed of many diverse talents and interests, Sunshine earned her SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card and membership after many roles as an extra in movies and having a speaking role in Miss Congeniality with Sandra Bullock.

Sunshine had a life-long passion for horses both as an accomplished equestrian, trainer, and breeder with her education beginning as a young child when she was mentored by her mother. This passion continued throughout her life, and Sunshine remained much sought after by the public for her knowledge and skills.

Just as Sunshine was married and contemplating a family, the unthinkable happened: she was diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer. At first the tumor was diagnosed as inoperable. However, through the assistance of friends, Sunshine was accepted for treatment with prominent and nationally known neurosurgeon at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Not only was the tumor excised by surgery, Sunshine was referred to a highly competitive drug trial being conducted at St. Thomas Hospital, where she received the first chemotherapy that had been designed to pass the blood-brain barrier. Initially, she was only given three (3) to four (4) years to live based upon the pathology of the tumor. In the same way that she approached everything else in her life, Sunshine was a fierce competitor and a fighter. Her marriage did not survive her diagnosis and treatment, but Sunshine persevered on her own. She not only greatly surpassed her life expectancy, but remained cancer free after the trial for twenty (20) years. Sunshine’s case even made a nationally known, peer-reviewed journal. Thanks to Sunshine and other cancer patients like her, the drug that she was provided in the clinical trial is now standard treatment in brain cancer treatment.

Even though Sunshine was left with some debilitating effects from the lemon-sized tumor that was removed, she continued to live her life with passion and on her own terms. She started a successful business in which she designed and manufactured one of a kind, handmade, jewelry pieces of heirloom quality. She specialized in semi-precious stone work. Sunshine’s pieces garnered acclaim and received many awards juried art shows.

Unfortunately, the enemy that Sunshine conquered with all her might two (2) decades ago, reared its ugly head with a vengeance in the last year. It was the same enemy, but a different type of brain cancer. Sunshine fought until the end, but her faith in God remained strong. She remained at peace and exited this life as it began: in the arms of her mother.

Sunshine was a member of Twelve Oaks Baptist Church in Paducah, Kentucky. She is the daughter of Sharon and Jimmie D. Hankins (now deceased) and Joe Ledbetter (wife Kay). Sunshine was preceded in death by her paternal grandparents, Mutt and Jeanette Ledbetter and her maternal grandparents, O.C. and Louise Heater. She is survived by an aunt Janie Herold of Tallahassee, Florida, and cousins Sheri Craven, David Herold (wife Laura), Mitch Heater, Paul Gholson, and Carl Herold. Special thanks are given to Sunshine’s beloved cousin, Gary Heater, who provided indispensable care during the last months of Sunshine’s illness.  Also deserving special mention are Sunshine’s neighbors, Ed and Nora Rikel, Gwen O’Brien and Judy Overstreet and friend Susie Peck and her life-long friend Shannon Tomlinson who also stepped up and helped with Sunshine’s care. Sunshine always had a beautiful smile on her face and a kind word for all she met. She will be missed by many.

Visitation will be at Lindsey’s Funeral Home on Saturday, June 24, 2023 at 11:00, funeral at 12:00 and burial follows at Mount Kenton Cemetery.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Sunshine (Ledbetter) Wagner, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

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Memorial Visitation

Saturday, June 24, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Memorial Service

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Starts at 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Inurnment

Saturday, June 24, 2023

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