"I Just Meet the Most Interesting People Everywhere I Go"
Sandra and George Harrison
To know her is to have met a true lady in the classic meaning of the word. Engaging, attractive, vibrant, imbued with Southern charm and class, Sandra Harrington is one 67-year-old dynamo. At our Village Views editorial board meetings, the atmosphere in the room always becomes animated when Sandra arrives. As the French would say, she radiates a certain joie de vivre. This is a fitting time to pay tribute to Sandra and her enormous contribution to this publication, which would not be the professional entity it has become without the woman whom our editor, John, calls “the eagle eye.” Sandra herself says she is “a real good nit-picker. I’ve always believed in grammar, punctuation, and getting it right!”
Sandra normally writes our “Who’s Who”pieces, but is currently recuperating from major surgery to remove a huge tumor from her brain. Fortunately, it was not malignant. Her family had become concerned when she started “walking like Ozzy Osbourne,” talking strangely, reaching for vocabulary. Her grandkids affectionately began calling her “Grandma Dory” after the scatterbrained blue fish in the movie Finding Nemo. As Sandra was going into surgery, the grandchildren handed her a toy blue fish, and lovingly reminded her of Dory’s mantra throughout the movie:“Just keep swimming!”
With the wonderful staff that cared for her at Moffitt, Sandra has pulled through nicely. Her devoted husband, George, she calls “the wind beneath my wings”; when he telephoned to check on her during our interview and she explained she was just telling me how wonderful he was, he said to just call him Saint George as that would cover it all. A delightful couple, indeed.
Ten years her senior, George the Texan still works as an investment banker; Sandra says he will never retire. “They’ll have to drag him out, kicking and screaming!” They are best friends. “We go everywhere together,” Sandra says,“and we always have.” George is teased at the office, she continues, because he is always willing to go out with the girls. He even likes chick flicks!
While at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, Sandra said history was being made around her. “At the time I was just a giddy college girl, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus right there where I was!” Sandra said that mothers immediately forbade their children to ride buses since “people would be shooting.”
After transferring to FSU, she joined Alpha Xi Delta sorority, a lifelong source of friendship. By the age of 26, Sandra was married and already had four children because, she says,“back then we didn’t have the pill;we had things that fail!” Her three girls and one boy she describes as so different that one would “never know they grew up in the same home.” For instance, during one election the four votes divided out into one for Clinton, one for Bush, and two for Perot.
Son Chris, now a chief warrant officer in the Marines and student at Northwestern University, ran away and joined a touring carnival out of high school. Sandra laughs as she notes he has never married, so he “doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear on him.” She then adds that she warned him he is going to “get snatched up by one of those desperate housewives.” Daughter Cindy is an attorney, as well as an active church and community volunteer. Another daughter is known as “disaster Darby,” since unusual situations seem to hit her, such as the day of Sandra’s diagnosis when her Land O Lakes home was struck by a tornado.The baby, daughter Shawn,was born on St. Patrick’s Day, so, says Sandra, she would have gotten that name regardless of gender; Shawn is their “Wild Irish Rose.”
George and Sandra’s mid-life marriage 22 years ago merged two warm families into one closely-knit unit that now includes 12 grandchildren.“My family is wonderful,” Sandra exclaims.“They were all here,my four and beloved step-daughter Marsha,when I had my surgery. One of the blessings was watching my children as they interacted with me and with each other.
- by Patricia Neemeh
I don’t think many of us in Tampa Bay are as appreciative as we should be that we have a class hospital like Moffitt Cancer Center right here in our back yard. A significant part of Moffitt is the research arm, housed in the new Vincent A Stabile Building.
When Dr. Brem,my brain surgeon, told
George and me that because of the
significant size of my tumor, they’d like
to study it at the research center,we
wondered if we could get visitation
rights.That’s how giddy you get when
you’ve dodged a bullet.