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Jan. 17, 1933 — May 24, 2019
GOLDSBORO — Sandra “Sandy” Donaldson Kirkland, 86, died peacefully in her sleep on May 24, 2019, after enduring several years of progressive Alzheimer’s dementia.
Sandy was born on Jan. 17, 1933, in Newark, New Jersey, the daughter of Carrie Louise Ward and Thomas Byron Donaldson. Sandy grew up in Jackson Heights, New York, before moving to eastern North Carolina in 1947 to be closer to her mother’s family. Sandy graduated from Charles L. Coon High School in Wilson, attended St. Mary’s College for two years in Raleigh and then attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, graduating in 1954. Sandy was named to the Homecoming Court and was named Miss Blue and White during her senior year at UNC.
A few years after college, she married the late John A. Kirkland M.D. and raised her family in Wilson, before moving to Atlanta and then to Goldsboro.
Sandy was a devoted member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Goldsboro, where she gave of her time serving on the altar guild and vestry for several years. She also loved volunteering at the local hospitals, especially the former Cherry Hospital, where she was a friend to the mentally challenged and the less fortunate. Sandy also loved volunteering at local elementary schools in Goldsboro where she was affectionately known by the students as the “Art Lady” for her often zany interpretations of famous paintings she would share with the students.
When not volunteering, Sandy loved her racket sports and was quite the gamer. Taught by her father who was once a U.S. men’s national doubles champion, Sandy won many tournaments when growing up in New York. This lifelong love of tennis became a love of pingpong in her later years, and she played in tournaments across the state and was runner up in the National Senior Games one year. Even with advanced dementia in her 80s, it was amazing to watch her play and the joy that it brought her.
Playing bridge was another favorite pastime as it combined two things Sandy greatly enjoyed, socializing and competing. She loved to host parties and cook for her family and friends. She read voraciously and loved classical music. Sandy had a unique zest for life. With a smile that would light up a room, self-deprecating humor and great spirit, she made friends everywhere and made them effortlessly. Yellow was Sandy’s favorite color, which she joyfully displayed in many forms including her clothing, decor, furnishings and even multiple cars through the years. It reflected her sunny personality.
In 2012, after Sandy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Sandy moved to the Woodland Terrace retirement community in Cary to be closer to family. Sandy’s exuberant personality and innate happiness were not dulled by her dementia. She was known as “Miss Sunshine” by the staff and caregivers at Woodland Terrace. On every visit her family made to Woodland Terrace one or more staff members would invariably begin their conversations with “I just love your mother” and then would share some story of her dancing or acting silly. She had a special ability to make people feel good and to entertain. She is greatly missed.
Sandy is survived by her three children, Sandy Haidinger (Jeff) of Washington D.C., Johnny Kirkland (Chris) of Charlotte and Byron (Ginny) of Raleigh. She is also survived by seven grandchildren, Carlin and Alec Haidinger; Tyler, John and McKay Kirkland; and Byron and Dawson Kirkland.
The family would like to express their sincere gratitude to the entire staff at Woodland Terrace as well as the amazing Transitions Lifecare organization. The family is especially grateful for Sandy’s special friend, Celena Williams, who was Sandy’s companion during the early years of her struggle with dementia.
There will be a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Goldsboro at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 13, 2019. The family will receive friends following the service in the St. Stephens Fellowship Hall.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any memorial donations be made to The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America at https://alzfdn.org/support-us/donate/.