Sandy West, the 103-year-old doyenne of Ossabaw Island, will leave her beloved barrier island near Savannah next month.
Frail, with fading memory, Sandy will be moved to a personal care facility in Savannah. It’s the end of a storied era along Georgia’s coast, one that the indomitable matriarch and fierce lover of nature helped shape.
“This is a very, very sad day for Eleanor Torrey West and the island and for those of us who love her and the island,” Jill Stuckey, a longtime friend and frequent Ossabaw visitor, said Friday.
Sandy had hoped to live out her days on Ossabaw, the largely unsullied barrier island twice the size of Bermuda that her parents bought in 1924. But money for the one-time millionaire, who plowed nearly every cent into her the island and its educational and cultural pursuits, is tight.
A GoFundMe account was established to cover Sandy’s home health care and to keep the electricity flowing at her circa 1925 Spanish revival mansion that has seen better days. She was recently the subject of a Personal Journey profile in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution which helped trigger donations to the account.
Nearly $67,000 had been raised from more than 600 people, more than a third since the AJC story ran. But that wasn’t enough, apparently, to keep Sandy on Ossabaw.
“We didn’t raise the money that the family felt they needed to do long-term care on the island,” Stuckey said, adding that the remaining funds will likely be donated to the nonprofit Ossabaw Island Foundation.
Sandy, beset by earlier financial woes, sold the 25,000-acre island to the state of Georgia in 1978 for a deeply discounted price in hopes of staving off developers. Terms of the deal allowed her to keep the Spanish revival mansion and 30 acres. Upon her death, though, the property belongs to the state.
A poignant picture of Sandy, in wheelchair alongside a grandson, on Bradley Beach staring into the Atlantic Ocean last week, is featured on the GoFundMe page.