Sandra Dionne Sullivan passed away from complications due to chronic heart failure on the morning of Saturday, March 4, 2023 at the age of 79. She was under hospice care in her Sacramento, CA home with her devoted husband Jim D. Sullivan at her side holding her hand when she took her last breath. Sandra was a genuinely wonderful daughter, trusted sister, loving wife, incredible mother, amazing grandmother, loyal friend, and overall remarkable person. She was truly selfless, kindhearted, gracious, generous, compassionate, caring, loving, and beautiful both inside and out. The legacy she leaves behind are the numerous profound positive impacts and influences she has had on the lives of family members, close friends, neighbors, colleagues, and acquaintances she has touched over her lifetime. Sandra will be missed tremendously by all who knew and loved her.
Sandra was born in Sacramento, CA on January 3, 1944 to Rosa A. Thomas, a single mother. She was raised and supported by her mother Rosa with the assistance of Otis and Lavern File, known as Uncle Odie and Aunt Bonnie. When Sandra was three years old, Rosa married Dan Pascu. Their marriage produced a younger brother, Danney R. Pascu, and sister, Karen S. Pascu (Agrimonti), for Sandra. Danney, Karen, and Sandra were very close as siblings and developed an extremely strong bond with one another. They relied on each other for love and support while growing up together. Danney and Karen regarded Sandra as a mother figure, and they continued this caring relationship throughout their lifetimes.
When Sandra was seven years old, her family moved into her permanent childhood home, and she soon became friends with two girls living in the neighborhood, Lynn Randolph and Sherry Hack. They played together, grew up together, and went to school together all the way from elementary school through high school. Their relationship continued to evolve stronger and deeper through the years to become an enduring, lifelong friendship. Sandra felt incredibly blessed to have such close and faithful friends as Lynn and Sherry in her life.
Sandra met her future husband and the love of her life, Jim D. Sullivan, in the summer of 1959 when she was 15 years old. For Jim, it was love at first sight. Although Jim was naturally shy and reserved, he overcame his natural tendencies and actively pursued Sandra for many months until he finally convinced Sandra to go steady with him. They dated for three years before getting married over sixty years ago. Sandra graduated from C.K. McClatchy high school in June of 1962 and married Jim two weeks later on June 23rd. The newly married couple spent their wedding night in San Francisco and then honeymooned for four days in Santa Cruz, Sandra’s childhood vacation destination. Sandra continued her family tradition of summer vacations in Santa Cruz when she formed her own family with Jim every year until the Covid pandemic occurred. On Jim and Sandra’s 50th wedding anniversary, their children honored them and their tradition by revealing that they arranged for a personalized memorial bench on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in front of Sandra’s favorite attraction, the Giant Dipper roller coaster. The inscription on their bench says “Jim and Sandra Sullivan - A lifetime of love, happiness and moments shared together”. Jim and Sandra as well as their family and friends have visited their bench several times over the last decade.
In high school, Sandra was involved in the Future Teachers club. She had the aptitude and desire to pursue a career as a teacher. Sandra sometimes reminisced about being the “Teacher of the Day” on a few occasions in high school where she would actually lead the class and teach the lessons on her own for an entire day of school. But when she became pregnant with her first son James two months after getting married, her dream to become a teacher was put on hold to take on the responsibility of raising her own family. Two years after James was born, Sandra gave birth to her second son Todd. Sandra was an outstanding mother and homemaker. At this moment in her life, she was raising an infant son and toddler, purchased, moved into, and furnished a new home for which she cleaned, maintained, did all the laundry including diapers, and grocery shopped and prepared all of the family meals. She accomplished all of this with true grace and adeptness. It was also during this time period that Sandra began to deal with the devastating pain and effects of the autoimmune diseases rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosus. She suffered and dealt with the chronic pain resulting from these diseases for the rest of her life. She rarely complained about her conditions and often suffered in silence. She refused to allow these diseases to limit her and disrupt her duties as a mother and wife. Later in life, Sandra underwent several surgical procedures including knee joint replacement, breast cancer lumpectomy, mitral valve replacement, and cardiac ablations. She was always able to battle back from these medical treatments until she finally succumbed to the complications resulting from her final heart surgery.
When James was four and Todd was two, Sandra volunteered to work in the preschool program they attended. She supervised activity stations and monitored play and snack times. Sandra really enjoyed her volunteer work at the preschool and found the time spent helping children develop and learn very rewarding. Sandra continued her volunteer work for two years up until she gave birth to her third son Shawn. A few years later, when Shawn began preschool and Todd and James attended Charles Mack Elementary School, Sandra got hired to be the Yard Duty Monitor at James and Todd’s elementary school. Sandra always considered her full time job to be a stay at home mother and house wife. Working this part time job as Yard Duty Monitor not only allowed her to earn some extra money to support her growing family, but it also kept her involved and in close contact with her children while she worked.
Sandra was the perfect mother for an all boy family. When James and Todd began to play Little League baseball, Jim and Sandra coached their baseball team. Sandra was the first woman to coach a Parkway Little League baseball team. The other coaches went out of their way to ignore and dismiss Sandra as a coach, but their disrespectful behavior turned to resentment and frustration throughout the season as Sandra consistently out coached them and defeated their teams game after game.
Shawn was not interested in playing baseball. So, when he was eight years old, Sandra signed him up to play soccer. After the “A” level coaches selected the players to be on their team, the “B” level coaches selected the players they wanted from the kids that remained. This resulted in some of the kids who were registered to play soccer not being selected for a team. Shawn was one of these kids. When Sandra was informed of this, she inquired as to why some kids wanting to play soccer were not going to get the opportunity to do so. She was told that the league didn’t have a coach to field another team. Sandra responded that she was willing to coach so that the kids who were not selected would have an opportunity to play soccer. Sandra became the first woman to coach a Parkway Soccer League team. Without any soccer coaching experience, Sandra took a roster of kids passed over by two other coaches and turned them into the league champions. The following year, the “A” and “B” level coaches attempted to claim the star players from Sandra’s “C” level team. Her players refused to play for the other coaches and returned to play for Coach Sandra. After the seeding tournament took place, Sandra’s team of rejected players became the “A” level team and went on to win the league championship several years in a row. Sandra was an outstanding coach. She had an eye for talent, a mind for strategizing, and a heart for getting the most out of her kids.
John Moreno was one of the kids on Coach Sandra’s soccer team. John was placed in a foster home in the neighborhood, and the foster parents signed him up to play soccer. On the first day of practice, John was apprehensive and somewhat timid about meeting his new teammates and soccer coach. Sandra had to coax John out from behind a sideline bleacher to welcome him to the team and get him to join the warmup circle. John flourished under Sandra’s care and guidance. He transformed from a quiet and reserved young boy to a confident and self assured young man during the time he spent playing soccer on Sandra’s team. Shawn and John became the best of friends, and John started spending more and more time at the Sullivan’s. When John reached high school, the state relocated him to another foster home on the other side of town. This disruption and separation was devastating for John and his well being. Eventually, John decided that he wanted to be a member of the Sullivan family. So, he ran away from the new foster home and skateboarded across town to the Sullivan’s house. Shortly thereafter, his case worker contacted Sandra to ask if she has heard from John. To make a long story short, eventually John became a member of the Sullivan family, and Sandra gained another son.
When Sandra’s sons moved on to high school, she moved along as well and worked at Valley High school as a career and financial aid counselor. A few years later, Sandra was hired to be the boys soccer coach at Valley High school. Once again, Sandra broke gender barriers by becoming the first women to coach a boys team at the high school level in the Elk Grove Unified School District. Sandra was a trailblazer, an inspiration, and a role model for future generations.
After high school, Sandra’s oldest and youngest sons both attended college at the University of California at Davis. During their time at UC Davis, Sandra was hired as an Administrative Coordinator in the university’s Microscope Services department. Sandra’s husband Jim also worked for the university as the Supervisor of the Reprographics department. Jim and Sandra commuted to and from UC Davis and had lunch together each work day for 18 years which is when she retired from the university. Sandra spent a lot of her time in retirement watching and caring for her grandchildren whenever her sons needed her to do so.
Sandra Sullivan was extremely proud of her outstanding and accomplished sons and daughter in-laws James, Todd, Shawn, John, Marilyn, Amy, Becky, and Jacki, and her incredible grandchildren Shawn Gregory, Devon, Aria, Matthew, Michael, Tony, Courtney, Dillon, James Tyler, and Samantha. Each and everyone of her children and grandchildren brought her tremendous joy, and she valued most the time she got to spend with them. Sandra cherished the moments she shared with her family and friends. Cultivating these relationships are what gave her purpose and pleasure in life.
Sandra’s family welcomes all who are interested in celebrating Sandra’s life and sharing their memories of her to attend her viewing on Wednesday, March 15th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm and her funeral service and graveside interment ceremony on Thursday, March 16th from 10:00 am to 11:30 am at East Lawn Cemetery, 9189 E. Stockton Blvd, Elk Grove, CA 95624. Sandra’s family will host a reception immediately following the interment ceremony at Sandra’s son’s home, 8061 Belgian Ct, Sacramento, CA 95830.