A local resident for more than forty years, Sandee Wilson died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage on December 5. She was 71.
That age, 71, was certainly a surprise to many – even to her son Chuckiey, who only discovered her true age while going through some papers after her death.
“She said she had me at 18 or 19, which always shaved a few years off her age relative to me,” said Chuck, now 50. In fact, she had been 21 when she had him.
Sandee was born in the Phoenix, Ariz. area and grew up in Scottsdale. She then “moved to Santa Monica, had me, got a divorce,” explained Chuck succinctly.
She moved to the Eastern Sierra in 1970. Her first job: cocktail waitress at the Rafters. After that, among other things, she worked several years for MMSA in the accounting department, and also managed Altitude 9,000 (now the Mountainside Grill) at one point.
As her son said, Sandee was very outdoorsy and loved softball, hiking, skiing, equestrian. She was also blessed with a great sense of humor and a quick wit.
As Diane Eagle Kataoka recalls, “My memory of Sandee is of someone enthusiastically engaged in life. We worked together at the Mammoth Times, where her ears were always cocked with curiosity for local happenings. She was an avid reader and a dog caretaker—truly the most wonderful dog person in town, a true alpha. Countless dogs and their owners will miss Sandee.”
As her son explained, in the days following her death, all the local dogs in Sunny Slopes continued to visit the house looking for their daily treats.
Betsy Rudolph said Sandee was a caretaker and dog sitter for six or seven families in the neighborhood. “She took care of pets, homes … she was very much in demand. I would book her a year in advance.”
“She had a fun personality, happy. She loved to cook, read … “ said Rudolph. Perhaps it was these qualities which made her so popular with the four-leggeds. She was a homebody. So when their owners left, the dogs still had someone at home.
But this doesn’t mean Sandee was reclusive. In fact, she had another, quite social side and liked to dress up. She also dyed her hair a bright red for the last three decades of her life.
The actual color of her hair? “Auburn, light brown,” said her son, who added, “Once she started going gray, she decided she didn’t want to be a ‘blue hair’ … so she chose red.”
“She was fiery like her hair,” he said. And she was a good mother. “My mom would know I was getting in trouble before I did,” laughed Chuckiey. “She knew everybody in town.”
Leslie Whitmore, a neighbor who often went walking with Sandee, said you never quite knew what Sandee might be wearing when she arrived.
“She might have on a hat with a veil, or a fanny pack with bling all over it …”
As Sue Ebersold said, Sandee was a pretty sensible person. Drank in moderation (but liked her tequila). She also looooved to dress and had a hat fetish.
“Her favorite places to shop were thrift stores … she’d always be showing up with a beautiful coat or a cute hat. She had an eye for it.”
But the thread through everyone’s recollections was Sandee’s love of dogs. Whitmore: “She was wonderful to animals. My dog would be really depressed when I got home [from a trip] just because that meant Sandee would be leaving.”
A celebration of life is planned for February.