November 11, 1937 - July 31, 2018
Sandra Gale Strong, of Dallas, Texas, passed away on July 31, 2018, at Avendelle Assisted Living where she lived for the last three years of her life. Born on November 11, 1937 in La Junta Colorado, Sandra grew up in Baird and Rincon, New Mexico. She was a member of the Hatch Valley High School Class of 1955, where she participated in band, drama club, the class play, FHA, the Hatch Valley High School newspaper and yearbook, and was a class officer. She was also involved in the Order of Rainbow for Girls, serving as Worthy Advisor. She was awarded the Rainbow Grand Cross of Color for service. She attended the University of New Mexico for one year in Albuquerque, where she was a member of the percussion section of the band. In 1956 she married Robert Gage and moved to Hatch, New Mexico. As a young wife and mother Sandra worked for the Hatch newspaper, was a bookkeeper for a butane company, and owned the Pink Door Gift Shop with her friend, Phyllis Sims. She also sold Avon and Tupperware during this time, and was a substitute teacher in the Hatch ISD.
In 1966, Sandra began teaching English as a second language to migrant workers for the Home Education Livelihood Program. Teaching these classes gave her a passion to help the less fortunate, and she began working for the Community Action Program of Dona Ana County. She was involved in the establishment of community centers in Derry and Placitas, New Mexico. Her involvement included finding sites for the centers, overseeing repairs to the old buildings that were chosen, etc. As Community Center Director at both locations, she oversaw operations, organized community groups such as food co-ops, and developed programs and events to address the needs of those in the community. She was involved with the establishment of the Head Start Program in the Hatch area.
In 1972 Sandra was promoted to the position of Program Director of the Emergency Food and Medical Services Program, and was later promoted to the position of Program Director of the Hot Lunch, Recreation and Referral Program for Senior Citizens. She designed and directed the Meals on Wheels program for Dona Ana County.
While she lived in New Mexico, Sandra was involved in the County Extension Club and the Garden Club. She was an active member of the Hatch United Methodist Church, was a den mother for her son’s Cub Scout Troop, was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, and served on the advisory board of the Rainbow assembly where both she and her daughter were members.
In 1973 Sandra moved to Austin with her two children, to be near her sister and to start a new job with the State of Texas. She worked for the Department of Human Resources in many different social worker positions until 1990. Sandra’s favorite position was as Facilitator for a Survival Skills class for young mothers, where she helped them prepare for and get jobs. Her last two years of employment were with the Texas Department of Rehabilitation as a medical disability examiner for Social Security. She received many commendations during her career, both in New Mexico and Texas.
While working full time and raising her teen children, Sandra enrolled in community college. In 1979 she received her Associate Degree from Austin Community College. In 1982 she received her Bachelor of Liberal Studies from St. Edward’s University. Education was very important to Sandra, and she was proud of the degrees she earned.
In 1981 Sandra married Vern Wolgamott, and moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico. They divorced, and she returned to Austin in 1983.
In 1996 Sandra began spending more time in Dallas, to help with her grandchildren. In 2000 she bought a home in Garland, Texas where she lived with her beloved dogs over the years. In 2012 she moved to Windsor Senior Living, and in 2015 she moved to Avenedelle Assisted Living (f/k/a Lexington Place), a group home for memory care.
Sandra is survived by her son, Robert Michael Gage, and his wife Rebecca O’Brien Gage of Austin; her daughter, Wanda Lucille Gage, and her husband Wade Thunhorst, of Dallas; her grand-daughters Hannah Hillary Gage Thunhorst of New York City, and Margaret Sandra Gage Thunhorst, of Austin. She is also survived by her nephew, Rob Willingham, and his wife Nancy Logan, of Roanoke, Virginia, along with her great nieces, Molly and Sydney. Sandra was preceded in death by her grandmother, Hilda Karney Reyher, her parents, Floyd Strong and Wanda Martin Strong, and her sister, Mayda Nel Strong. She was also preceded in death by her ex-husbands, Robert R. Gage and Vern Wolgamott.
A memorial service celebrating Sandra’s life will be held on August 27, 2018 at 4:00, at First United Methodist Church Richardson, 503 N. Central Expressway, Richardson, Texas 75080. Donations may be made in Sandra’s name to the Alzheimers Association at www.alz.org.
Arrangements are under the direction of
ARIA Cremation Service and Funeral Home
19310 Preston Road
Dallas, Texas 75252
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