Sandra E. Johnson (1936-2021)

11 mins read
Sandra E. Johnson

HALLOWELL – Sandra Evelyn Johnson passed away peacefully with family and friends by her side in her home in Hallowell on April 13, 2021.

Sandra and her twin sister Pamela were born in Caribou on March 30, 1936 to Phylis Day Johnson and Arthur Emmanual Johnson. They were the oldest of five sisters. Sandra and her sisters attended Caribou public schools and worked in the potato fields in the county while growing up. Although it was hard work, Sandra had fond memories of waking up at dawn in freezing temperatures to pick potatoes. The ride to the fields on a flatbed open truck, huddled in an open barrel with her identical twin sister for warmth as the wind whipped overhead, was one of her favorite childhood memories. And the potato picking money allowed her to buy a year’s worth of books about dogs, one of her lifelong loves.

Sandra adored her Swedish grandparents, and spent as much time as she could with her sisters at their farm at the outskirts of Caribou being doted on by Klaus and Nettie. To the day she died she claimed never to have a better breakfast than the ones that Nettie would prepare for her. On that farm, Sandra learned to love the outdoors, and love the peculiar great plains-like landscape of Aroostook County. It was at that farm, as a 7-year-old girl with a great imagination, that she led military drills with her sister and a couple of friends, to train and prepare for what they felt was the inevitable Japanese invasion of Caribou.

She loved small town life and knowing everyone and their stories. She was a great observer of people, and a collector of their stories. But the real star of Sandra’s childhood stories was Revere Beach, Mass., where she would visit her other set of grandparents each summer. At Revere, spending the better part of the day underwater pretending to be “The Water Babies” of Charles Kingsley’s books, she and her sisters learned to love the ocean.

Sandra went to Bates College in Lewiston for her undergraduate degree. As the story goes, there was only enough money to help one of the twins go to college, and both were equally qualified. So they flipped a coin. Sandra won. So she went to college and her twin went to nursing school. One of Sandra’s only regrets was not insisting her twin go instead. She ultimately came to understand about herself that, “I would have figured out a way to go no matter what”. And anyone who knew Sandra knows this is true–if she had her sights on a goal, she would reach it. She never mentioned it unless asked directly, but Sandra also attended Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. and earned a masters in education.

Sandra taught in several schools in New England and eventually came to Waterville High School Media Center in Waterville, where she taught creative writing.

Perhaps the most significant part of her career was teaching education, supervising student teachers, at University of Maine at Farmington. She was responsible for the training and guiding of many wonderful teachers in the central Maine area. As one of her student teachers, Julia Hennessy, described her: ”Her sense of humor got us through. She loved to watch us get ourselves in trouble and then see how we got ourselves out of it. The kids were attracted to her like a magnet. They would talk to her about everything when she was in the classroom. Sandy certainly left her imprint on the UMF community.”

When Sandra wasn’t in the classroom, she spent many wonderful summers on Swan’s Island, Maine with her partner, Judy Monroe and family. Sandra was a gardener and a creative cook. She loved to read late into the night by kerosene lamp in the island kitchen with her dogs by her side.

Judy and Sandy entertained and fed lucky guests regularly. Her favorite post dinner entertainment was a wild form of penny ante, anything goes, poker. It never mattered who won (although she preferred when one of the kids did), but that there were a ton of laughs in the process. Sandra had a non commercial lobster license and managed to haul her traps in a small punt. Her lobster buoys were decorated with peace signs and love flowers. She looked forward to visits from her sisters, nieces and nephews. This was one of her opportunities to share her love of Swan’s Island and the islanders. She would drive guests around the island or take them on the water and show them all the special places and unique things to do.

Sandra was sometimes nicknamed the pied piper of kids and dogs. She always had pet dogs and colorful stories of rescuing animals while driving the Maine roads on her way to and from work. She will be remembered for the way she would light up and welcome so many into her home and heart. Her ability to listen and provide care and comfort for those in need was unique.

Sandra retired in Hallowell with her partner Judy where they continued entertaining friends and spending time with grandchildren, nieces and nephews. For years, they made the long drive to spend the winter in the Florida Keys. A true Mainer, Sandra was a reluctant snowbird and had to be talked into going. Sandra held strong opinions, but was always willing to change her opinions based on her experience. She came to love the Keys once she made enough friends with her favorite Key West roosters, a neighbors dog, the flowers, a special fish that would visit her cove, and a few other bits of nature. Wherever she went Sandra was happy, as long as she was surrounded by natural beauty, had Judy by her side, a book on the nightstand, and at least one dog at her feet.

When Sandra left us on April 13, 2021, it wasn’t for the first time. Over the previous year or two prior to a pacemaker, she died and had to be resuscitated several times. That is how much she loved this world, and her place in it. She didn’t want to leave. The last time she was resuscitated she remembered waking happily running through the flowering potato field’s of her childhood.

Sandra was predeceased by mother Phylis, father Arhur, twin sister Pamela Johnson Schreiber, sister Judy Mckee, sister Paula Johnson. Her beloved Aunt Evelyn Johnson, and her life partner Judith W. Monroe.

Sandra is survived by: Sister Karen Johnson (of Lakeville Minnesota) and her children Jennifer Laird and Heather Laird Gariepy, and Niece Kendra Mckee Melvin and her husband Brent, Nephew William Mckee, Nephews Eric Peterson and wife Beth, Jay Peterson and his husband David, and Christopher Peterson and his wife Heather; Stepchildren Wendy Powell Springborn and partner Larry Dibble, Sabrina Powell Beach and husband John, Gregory Wilcox Powell and wife Amy, and Susan Pullen; Stepgrandchildren Nicholas Beach, Molly Connely, and Catherine Powell; Grand Nieces and Nephews Cyrus and Pascal Peterson, Levi, Asa, Kaia and Nico Peterson, Kayla Melvin, Shelby Quinlan, Evan,Chris and Robert Grariepy.

Special thanks to Dr. Scott Schiff Slater, Maine General Homecare and Hospice, neighbor Patrick Wynn and Caregivers: Lynda Hinds, Ebyn Moss, Kali Bird Isis and Trisha Terwilliger.

Due to Covid and travel a private celebration of her life will be held on June 5, 2021, in Hallowell, Maine.

Arrangements are in the care of the Knowlton & Hewins Funeral Home, One Church Street Augusta Maine, where condolences may be shared with the family on the obituary page of the website at https://www.khrfuneralhomes.com.

Sandra’s remains will be laid to rest with her twin sister Pamela, and her partner Judith Monroe at the Rose Hill Cemetery, Swan’s Island, Maine at a later date.

In lieu of flowers please consider donating to one of Sandra’s favorite charities:
Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary. https://ofsds.org .
The Kennebec Valley Humane Society. https://pethavenlane.org
Franklin County Humane Society: https://fcanimalshelter.org

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