Much loved member of our branch, Sandra, died on Tuesday, 13 October, after losing her fight with acute myeloid leukaemia. Sandra was passionate about life in all its aspects and she will be mourned and missed not only by her writing friends but the Bream Bay/Waipu community with whom she was deeply involved as a writer, belly dancer, ukulele player, gardener, teacher, fundraiser, civil defence organiser, entertainer and superb hostess.
While Sandra grew up in Calexico, a town on the California-Mexico border, and was educated in the USA she fell in love with New Zealand, making Waipu her home, and it was there her talent for writing flourished.
Sandra first expressed interest in writing a picture book for children on language and on food. She was a fluent Spanish speaker and had a degree in nutrition and horticulture. She signed up for the NorthTec writing course as a part-time student some years back and quickly discovered that her real skill lay in non-fiction. She especially liked interviewing people and finding out the interesting things they were involved in or had done. She wrote her interviews as a series for The Northern Advocate over several years as a result.
Sandra also wrote articles for Home and Garden – she once (only semi-jokingly) confided to Janine McVeagh that she would like to be the Martha Stewart of Waipu. She had a regular column in the Bream Bay Chronicle and edited the Fire Service magazine as well as writing articles about the Service. Her real enjoyment of meeting people and getting to know them was what lifted her writing – she genuinely liked all her subjects and some became lifelong friends.
Not so well known is her foray into making little movies – Nutty in the North is her affectionate tribute to her belly-dancing group. Sandra was a foundation student on the new Flax Roots paper, initially offered at Rawene campus – this has become an ACE course in one direction and NorthTec’s Level 6 scriptwriting paper in another direction. As with everything Sandra took on, she put a lot into her writing and created a career for herself from it.
Sandra joined the New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN Inc.) Northland branch in August 2004 and hosted many meetings over the years – the highlight for most of us was the meeting on 1 July 2007, the day after the performance of The Rocking Cave, when Dame Fiona Kidman and James McNeish talked about their relationships with the Waipu community and how their works (McNeish’s play and Fiona’s The Book of Secrets) came into being. Meetings at Sandra’s also enriched gardens all over Northland as we often came away with cuttings and seedlings.
Sandra was our publicity officer and whenever we needed to publicise an event she always managed to slip it into her columns or write a feature on it. We have so many wonderful memories of her – dressed up in Indian costume eating pizza before a storyteller’s performance, sharing a wine in her beautiful kitchen, sitting on the window-seat drawing peace from the view, listening to her stories, her voice, her laughter … Sandra touched the hearts of many of us and we will so badly miss her.
Janine McVeagh, Diana Menefy and Lesley Marshall