Life Story / Obituary
Sandra Lou Lenard, 81, died on September 25th, 2020 at her home in Racine, Wisconsin, after a long illness.
The firstborn child and oldest daughter of Mr. J.T. “Jake” Rodgers and Mrs. Grace Rodgers of Lindale, TX, Sandra was born on November 5th, 1938. Raised in rural farm country near Lindale, she attended Van High School, where she played the French horn in the marching band and graduated as salutatorian in 1957. Sandra attended Tyler Junior College, then completed her bachelor’s degree in education in 1961 at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX.
Partly due to her principled opposition to segregation, rather than teaching in the United States, Sandra became a Methodist missionary teacher at the College of West Africa, the Methodist mission school in Monrovia, Liberia. Her many remarkable experiences in Africa included visits to newly independent African nations, and meeting some of Liberia's future leaders during her teaching work. After returning to the United States in 1963, she moved to Philadelphia, PA where she worked for the American Friends Service Committee. She met Michael “Mike” Lenard at Arch Street United Methodist Church and married him in 1966.
Following a short period in Cambridge, MA as Michael completed his engineering studies, Sandra settled in Erie, PA after Michael was hired by GE Transportation (a locomotive manufacturer) there. Their two children were both born in Erie; Mary Kathleen Lenard in 1967, and David Michael Lenard in 1969. The family moved to Falls Church, VA in 1974 after Michael accepted a job with the Mitre Corporation. In Falls Church, Sandra raised her two children, worked for various churches and government agencies, and was very active in the Graham Road United Methodist Church and other community activities.
Following Michael's premature death in 1984, Sandra moved to Austin, TX in 1987, then returned to Lindale, TX, to be near her parents in 1988. While living in Lindale, Sandra joined Union Chapel United Methodist Church. A lifelong lover of books and reading, she became a founding member of the Friends of the Lindale Library, an organization created to build the first-ever public library in Lindale. Sandra was present at the opening ceremony of the library (now called the Lillie Russell Memorial Library), which has become a thriving and established institution in Lindale.
After the death of her mother in 2005, Sandra moved to Racine, WI to be closer to her daughter Mary, a Racine resident and professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Although Sandra’s life was less active in Racine, she joined the Adventures in Lifelong Learning group at UW-Parkside and the Racine chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Towards the end of her life, Sandra attended the wedding of her son David in July 2019, and survived long enough to view sonograms of her first grandchild, Michael Rodrigo Lenard.
Sandra was a lifelong United Methodist who served in important posts at nearly every church she attended. She loved music, and played piano well enough to serve as a church pianist. She took up crochet as a young adult and became so adept that if there were national rankings for crochet, she probably would have made the top 25; countless family members were graced with her beautifully crafted blankets and afghans. Sandra loved animals of all types; family pets included four dogs, three cats, a lizard, a cockatiel, and for several years, a domesticated house sparrow nursed back to health by Michael.
She was a brilliant cook who, on one memorable occasion early in her marriage, went "toe to toe" with a professional French chef, and produced dishes of equal or better quality (at least according to her husband). An avid reader of mystery novels, Sandra owned a huge collection of these which was probably even larger than that of the Lindale Library. She became remarkably well traveled for her generation; besides her residence in Africa and a family trip to Europe in the 1970s, Sandra went to Israel in the 1990s with her lifelong friend Gailia Lang, and on three separate occasions, traveled to Asia where her son David worked as a teacher, writer and entrepreneur. Sandra was an avid birdwatcher and a lethal competitor at all trivia-based games. She was proud of the achievements of both her children, and as a mother, her greatest strength was that she gave her children the freedom and resources to pursue their intellectual interests and career choices.
Sandra Lenard is survived by her daughter, Mary Lenard of Racine, WI; her son David Lenard and daughter-in-law Roshel Lenard of Avon, IN; a not-yet-born grandson, Michael Rodrigo Lenard (expected in December 2020); her younger sister, Mary “Kitzy” Golden [and James Golden] of Edom, TX; her younger brother Joe Tom Rodgers, Jr [and Beverly Rodgers] of Van, TX; and her sister-in-law Veronica Lenard of Bloomington, IN; as well as her nieces and nephews by both blood and marriage: Keith Kindle, Karen Kindle Martin, Tracy Rodgers Thornton, George Lenard, and Dorothy Lenard. She also is survived by many other relatives from both her own and her husband’s families, and several longtime close friends, namely Mrs. Gailia Lang of Lindale, TX; Mrs. Yvonne Purcell of Layton, UT; Mrs. Narie Ikeda of Pasadena, CA; and Mrs. Helen Williams of Falls Church, VA. She was preceded in death by her husband, Michael Lenard, and her parents, J.T. and Grace Rodgers.
The family tentatively plans a memorial service for Sandra in summer 2021 at the Caudle-Rutledge funeral home in Lindale, TX; Sandra will be interred next to her husband in the Lindale cemetery. Condolence notes or inquiries may be sent to Mary Lenard at 1644 Grange Ave, Racine, WI, 53405.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Sandra's name to the Lillie Russell Memorial Library in Lindale, TX: