By Kristina Arvanitis / Staff Writer, The Winchester Star
Wednesday, April 2, 2003
Winchester lost an outstanding citizen on Sunday evening (3/30/2003) when local philanthropist and landscape designer Sandra Rodgers died of cancer in her home. She was 65 years old.
A town resident since 1962, Rodgers was best known for the redesign and restoration of an island in the Aberjona River in 2001, which was given the permanent name "Sandy's Island" in her honor. Since the dedication of the island, the town has received numerous requests for permission to use Sandy's Island for weddings and other special occasions.
Rodgers served on the board of a number of societies, clubs and town committees, and made an indelible mark on town life in several other ways. For her contributions to Winchester, she was given both the Chamber of Commerce's 23rd annual Outstanding Citizen of the Year title and the Rotary Club's highest form of recognition, the Paul Harris Distinguished Service Award in 2002.
"Sandy was noteworthy for many fine qualities, amongst these a dignity and grace she brought to her many endeavors," said Sydelle Pittas, president of the Winchester Rotary Club. "She was so modest. You would never know she did the hands-on work and actually funded so many of the beautification efforts in town. She never blew her own horn that way, and just spoke enthusiastically about her projects."
Rodgers' last project was to prepare and enter Winchester for the first time in the "America in Bloom" competition. A graduate of Vassar College, she utilized her expertise in landscape design to bolster the town's image for the visiting committee. Her efforts were recognized when the town received "three out of five blooms" in the contest and won special commendation for heritage conservation.
Rodgers' own "Adopt-an-Island" program was also praised by the competition's judges. Her program enabled both individuals and local businesses to sponsor the beautification of one of the town's several "islands," or patches of land near rotaries or intersections.
Rodgers served as an elected member of the School Committee for six years and was a 25-year Town Meeting member, serving up until the time of her death.
A lover of the town's open spaces, she was a fixture on the town's Design Review Committee, where she led the charge for the construction of a park at the corner of Main and Swanton streets and coordinated fund-raising efforts to beautify and improve Eliot Park.
Rodgers also served on the Board of Directors for the Winchester Hospital Foundation and the Arthur Griffin Center for Photographic Art. She was a member of the EnKa Society and a member of the Winchester Jumelage, where she coordinated a garden tour exchange program with the town's sister city, Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
"Sandy was such a phenomenal person in so many ways," said Selectman Elizabeth Cregger at a tribute during Monday night's selectmen's meeting. "She was a good friend, a great lady and a grand citizen, and we will miss her very much."
Town Manager Brian Sullivan commented on the breadth of her work for the town.
"There really wasn't an issue too small or too large that she wasn't determined to work on," he said. "Sandy was a great friend to the citizens of Winchester."
Other selectmen echoed these sentiments, before standing for a silent moment of reflection in Rodgers' honor.
Perhaps Rodgers best described her own legacy in a brief comment at a ceremony to recognize her for her good deeds.
After being serenaded by Frank Sinatra impersonators congratulating her for doing it "Her way" during the presentation of the Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, Rodgers was asked to comment on her achievements and methods in the town.
"Yes, I've done things 'My way,'" she said to the audience. "And yes, I've had a really good time."