On 11 January 1930, a whimsical, gentle breeze wafted through Minneapolis MN, encircling the womb of Leona Sandell. She birthed a daughter that day, Ethleen Marie Sandell (Sandi), to the absolute delight of Her husband, George Albert Sandell Jr.
Over the ensuing years, Leona and George would add five more children to their menagerie: Georgette (Georgie), Leona (Sugar), George III (Sonny), Leonard (Lenny) and Jeanne. They raised their brood in the Prospect Park neighborhood, below the “Witch’s Hat Water Tower.” It was here that Sandi fostered the fearless nature that would elevate Her in life. Bobsleds careening down that icy slope! Single-blade racing skates, carving the surface of the lower rink with Her father. She adored him as much as he adored her.
Sandi went to elementary and junior high school at a University of Minnesota facility. At 13, she took a job at the Tower Grocery store, where her engaging spirit delighted the customers. She graduated from Marshall High School near Dinky Town, in January 1948, as a student in an accelerated program. She played girls’ half-court basketball. She was short and scrappy, often besting the male practice team players with Her lunges and layups at the hoop. She sang in the choir. The most beautiful voice one might imagine. Full. Lilting. Magnificently controlled. Several octaves were her pleasure. She loved classical music and would often Grace her home with rich arias as well as smooth jazz and soulful gospel hymns.
She had wanted to go to nursing school, after working as a Candy Striper during WWII. She was deeply impacted by the breadth of traumatic injuries which flooded the UM Hospital. She wanted to help heal the pain she witnessed. Compassion was woven into her being. It was a hallmark of her tender character throughout her life.
At the age of 20, she spontaneously moved to a small French hamlet in west central WI, as a nanny to Henry Breault. It was in this village that she met Doyle Joseph Belisle, also 20. He was immediately smitten by this lithe beauty, with long, auburn hair and a fetching smile. One afternoon, before Sandi knew of Doyle’s growing affection for her, he, in his powerfully magnificent baritone voice, sang across the only intersection in the Village of Somerset: “I love you, a bushel and a peck!” He then told his mother Violet, “I’m going to marry that girl.” To which she quipped, “You foolish thing!”
On 5 May 1951, they married at Fort Bragg NC, just before Doyle shipped out to the Korean War. Sandi’s 15-year-old brother Sonny, who only had his temporary driver’s license, drove Her at breakneck speed-and through a blizzard in the Smokey Mountains-to the fort. Sandi’s maid-of-honor was Sergeant York, a large, commanding figure, who called Mom “The Aggressor!”. For 13 months, Sandi pined for Doyle, as he was an artillery soldier in Korea, and she worked at Fort Snelling in St Paul.
After the war, they moved to Maplewood Mn, but soon were back in Somerset. They purchased a Federalist Colonial home and added seven children: Dianne, Thèrése, Nanette, Yvette, Doyle, Douglas and Wendy. “It takes seven to get to Heaven,” according to their St Anne’s parish priest, Fr Rivard. They did their part!
As Sandi reared her children, she composed ditties to help them “chew and chew and swallow too.” She was involved in her church. She was the Girl Scout leader. She helped her husband with his band of Boy Scouts. She was an exceptional artist in many genres. Anything she created was blessed by her talent. She was a gifted, magical seamstress, making pillows for her children (one filled with rumpled plastic bags, she named Mr Whisper) and prom dresses for her daughters. She was an exquisite gardener of flowers and herbs, intuitively understanding the healing properties of food and plants long before it became popular.
At the age of 36, Sandi decided to go to college, so that she could be guaranteed a livelihood if something happened to Doyle. She earned a bachelor’s degree and three master’s degrees: Special Education; Speech and Language Pathology; and Reading.
Sandi taught first in Somerset and then in Baldwin WI. She retired shortly after Doyle retired in 1987. They purchased a small motor home, followed by a much larger Winnebago, and headed out to explore the US, Mexico and Canada. They were extremely happy, and often shared their travels with their children and grandchildren.
After they parked their “Mini-Winny,” they moved to Lake Tainter, where Sandi was as happy as a bee in a flower patch. Our Beloved Sandi Bee!
Sandi and Doyle had a new home built in Eau Claire WI in 2004. They gardened. Cooked. Rested. And enjoyed the myriad visits by their Loving Family.
Sandi’s Transition has left a gaping hole in all of us. She is survived by Doyle, her Eternal True Love and husband of 70 years; Her seven children and their mates; 18 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren; her sister Sugar and her brother Lenny; and many, many extended family members and friends. She was preceded in death by Her daughter-in-law Raven Marchetti and Her grandson Kellen’s partner, Kara Hoeck.
Sandi’s charm and elegance were captivating. She was a gorgeous, sweet Soul, who radiated kindness. Once you met her, you never forgot her. Her gentle all-knowing eyes. Her words, spontaneous yet perfectly formed. Her inner strength and humility. The tapping of her foot to the ever-flowing rhythm of life, love, endless joy and music. Implanted in our Souls.
For Eternity. . .
We’ll look for you, Sandi, in all things Bright and Beautiful.
Your Grateful, Loving Family.
A celebration of Sandi’s life will be held on Sunday, August 08, 2021, at 3:00 p.m. at Mills River Baptist Church with Pastor Thomas Glenn officiating.
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