If you haven’t yet heard the news from friends or family or chance encounters among strangers that Sandy Northrup passed away, don’t worry. You will. It’s inevitable. A person as wise and caring and funny and dedicated as Sandy doesn’t weave herself into North Central Washington with such devotion without everyone eventually hearing about our loss.
Our loss. With Sandy, our loss is not ours. Yes, we grieve in private as husband and sons, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, cousins and friends. But our loss is your loss. Our grief is your grief. We cry for her as a family, but we don’t cry alone. An entire swath of the Pacific Northwest is in mourning, from the dry plains outside Pendleton, to the vibrant community where the Wenatchee River meets the Columbia, to the quiet mountain skies of Mazama. There and here and everywhere in between, we all remember her.
That’s what happens when you dedicate your life to the people around you. People tend to remember.
She made her presence felt from her earliest years. Whether putting on a rope-spinning display for tourists by the age of 10, enjoying time with sisters Cindee and Linda, or terrorizing her younger brother Lance, Sandy was a young Oregonian woman who entranced everyone she met. That included a young man from Milton-Freewater, Oregon, named Gordi. The two were wed in 1964 and remained happily ever after. They moved to North Central Washington and raised two sons, Brad and Craig. After a while, Sandy decided she would lose her entire collection of marbles if she spent one more solitary minute with her weirdo kids, and that she needed a well-deserved break and some peace and quiet in her life. So she went to work at Wenatchee High School.
For 15 years, Sandy served as career counselor at both the high school and Wenatchee Valley College, helping a generation of young people discover their own paths as they navigated the world ahead. She touched the lives of thousands of students: Whether preparing for the SATs and ACTs, choosing the right college and maneuvering through the application process, practicing for job interviews, or developing basic life skills, students leaned on Sandy because she was always eager to help the children and young adults of Wenatchee succeed. She led fundraisers, worked with boosters, dedicated her energy, and sacrificed her time to help students in any way she could. She continued her devotion to the Panthers even after she left the school district to go to work for the local bus system. At LINK, she fit right in, absorbing her new role as community relations specialist with that same enthusiasm and commitment. Helping the elderly, the disabled, and the impoverished use the bus was a labor of love that continues to pay dividends to this day. Nothing could keep Sandy from making the world around her a better place. Not even cancer.
She enjoyed a healthy retirement for 12 years, revitalizing her commitment to serve her community, exploring new adventures as a grammie and enjoying new friendships with her neighbors in Mazama. But unlike Sandy, breast cancer is an old hag that doesn’t care about the world around it or who it hurts. Cancer spent the past 16 months trying to kill the spirit of Sandy Northrup. The closest it ever got was killing her body on June 15, 2017, as she slept quietly in her home in East Wenatchee.
Sandy is preceded in death by her parents, Lois and Ford Robertson of Pendleton, Oregon, and survived by Gordi, her husband of 52 years, of Wenatchee; son Brad (Aimee, Emma and Jacob) of Nine Mile Falls, Washington; son Craig (Trinity and grandson Dawson) of Salt Lake City, Utah; sister Linda (Bob) of Cove, Oregon; sister Cindee of Eugene, Oregon; brother Lance (Sarah); and five nieces and nephews.
But more importantly, Sandy leaves behind a legacy of compassion to others and commitment to her community. People are enjoying a small park in East Wenatchee because she and a handful of volunteers took a summer planting seed and landscaping soil. Doctors and staff are helping patients in a wing of Central Washington Hospital that exists because she raised community funds to make it happen. A legion of kids from Wenatchee High grew up to live better, more prosperous lives because she dedicated her time and sweat and soul to them. Sandy lived her life trying to help everyone around her. She believed in the importance of community, of compassion, of coming together to build something greater than herself. She leaves behind a challenge to us all to do the same, footsteps that are easy to follow but impossible to fill.
A celebration of life will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 18 at Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee. In lieu of flowers, please send any gifts to Cancer Care of North Central Washington, 1708 Castlerock Ave., Wenatchee, WA 98801; www.cancercarencw.org/donate.php. Arrangements are by Telford’s Chapel of the Valley, East Wenatchee.