The Rev. Sandra Gillogly Lee died on June 23, 2017 at the age of 74.
Sandra was born on September 1, 1942 to parents Russell and Vedia Mae Gillogly, and grew up in Ponca City, OK. She received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Central State College in Edmond, OK in 1969, and worked for many years as a microbiologist. After moving to the Pacific Northwest in 1979, Sandra became active in the Kitsap UU Fellowship of Bremerton, WA, a small, struggling fellowship; within nine months Sandra was elected Board President, and over the next five years also served as the congregation’s Worship Committee Chair, Building Campaign Chair, Auction Chair, and workshop leader. This lay service proved to be extremely rewarding, and Sandra perceived her call toward professional ministry—earning a Master of Divinity from Vancouver School of Theology in 1988. Sandra considered herself a naturalistic mystic, and in 1998 she attained a Doctorate of Theology from the University of Creation Spiritualty in Oakland, CA.
Rev. Lee was ordained by the First Unitarian Church of Portland, OR on May 30, 1988, and was first called to serve Washington’s Olympia UU Congregation. Sandra served the Olympia congregation for ten years, during which she married her beloved husband Don Bell and completed a pilgrimage to Olympia’s sister-church in Transylvania. It was under Rev. Lee’s leadership that the congregation was able to finance and construct its new church building, gain recognition as a Welcoming Congregation, and create many vital staff positions—including Music Director and Director of Religious Education. Rev. Lee was then called to minister to the UU Congregation of the Grand Valley in Grand Junction, CO from 2000 to 2002, following which she served for a year as Interim Minister of the Columbine UU Church of Littleton, CO. Sandra then served as a hospice chaplain for several years before retiring from the ministry.
Sandra’s innumerable interests included philosophy, theology, spiritual exploration, silversmithing, paper and fabric crafts, winemaking, as well as air dynamics and the manufacture of kites. Greatly valuing the exchange of wisdom across faith traditions, Sandra was very active in the Interfaith Council of Washington. She also believed it deeply important to support the artistic endeavors of others, and was an enthusiastic appreciator of all manners of art. Post-retirement, Sandra herself worked nearly full-time as an art jeweler and quilt artist, winning several national quilting competitions. Sandra also studied and admired all creation and natural phenomena, treasuring the animals who were her dear companions—including fish, a raccoon, a sheep, and many dogs and cats.
Sandra’s spouse Don shared several humorous anecdotes about their joyous life together, including how they spent their honeymoon at the 1989 Pacific Northwest District Leadership School, as well as the following:
Sandra and Frances Buckmaster attended seminary at the Vancouver School of Theology… and they were the first non-Christian students to attend there. Sandra invited the Dean, Rev Arthur Van Seters, to give the address for her Ordination, and he consented to do so. At the end of his six hour drive from Vancouver to Portland, he crossed the Fremont Bridge… The only part of his address that I remember is this: "As I crossed that tall bridge a couple of miles back, I saw two little tugboats turning this huge oceangoing freighter around in the river, and I thought: That is much like Sandra and Frances, two little tugboats turning around this big institution." She was not particularly fond of me calling her ‘my cute little tugboat,’ but she tolerated it, possibly because of her immense admiration for the Dean.
In the Olympia UU Congregation’s own tribute to Rev. Lee’s life and ministry, Rev. Carol McKinley offered these words: “Sandra is remembered for her enthusiasm and capacity for laughter and fun… In her art, she attempted to balance opposites: soft and hard, light and dark, serious and whimsical. She was an enthusiastic celebrant of life in its abundance and diversity.”
And Darlene Sarkala, administrator at the Olympia church, remembered a congregant saying of Rev. Lee: “After hearing the sermons of other ministers I often left the experience asking myself, ‘Am I doing enough?’ or, ‘What do I have to do to be better?’ But with Sandra I never left feeling guilty.” Don expressed that this trait was “an absolute with [Sandra]: Every sermon must end with a message of hope, not fear or despair.”
Rev. Lee is survived by spouse Don Bell and sister Marsha Green.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to NARAL Pro-Choice America, to the Red Phred and the Tu-tones Support Fund c/o Don Bell (address below), or to the charity of one’s own choosing.
A memorial service will take place on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at the Grand Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 536 Ouray Ave, Grand Junction, CO 81501. At 4pm the congregation will hold a viewing and silent auction of Sandra’s prize-winning quilts, jewelry, and other memorabilia, with proceeds going to charities she endorsed. The celebration of life will begin at 5pm, and at 5:59pm the arrival of sunset will be saluted—followed by music, wine, and stories.
Notes of condolence can be sent to Don Bell at 315 Ouray Ave, Grand Junction, CO 81501 and at DonWayneBell@gmail.com.
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