‘A caring person’: Cloverdale woman remembered for love of sports, teaching
Sandra Lee McMillan was a whirlwind of activity for most of her life, and a supporter of the underdog. She was a fan of the outdoors, extremely athletic, a caring mother, aunt and teacher.
McMillan, 59, died Oct. 29, 2021, after a battle with cancer.
“Sandy,” as she was known to most, was born July 4, 1962, in Healdsburg. She lived most of her life in her hometown, Cloverdale.
McMillan was into physical activity early on in life.
“She was water skiing when she was 4 years old,” said her mother, Pat McMillan. “She played basketball, did track. She loved hiking, kayaking, fishing — anything outdoors she liked.”
McMillan was a pioneer in basketball — trying out for the boys basketball team at age 13, and prompting the Cloverdale Unified School District to begin a girls basketball program for seventh and eighth graders.
The eldest of three children, Sandy went on to play basketball at Cloverdale High School, then for two years at Santa Rosa Junior College and finished her basketball career playing for two years at Sonoma State University. She also was a competitive shot putter in high school.
“She and I used to play basketball together all the time,” said her younger brother, Craig McMillan, boys basketball coach at Santa Rosa Junior College. “She would always beat me, and toughened me up a little,” he recalled. “She was a tomboy and was always playing basketball with boys.
“The whole family was into sports, and she was always a great fan of the basketball team,” he added.
Sandy also excelled in her studies at Sonoma State University, and earned her bachelor's degree and teaching credentials in 1985.
She started her career teaching physical education and coaching basketball at an elementary school in Martinez. Four years later, she returned to Cloverdale to teach all subjects at Johanna Echols Hansen Continuation High School.
“She was the only teacher there, and she taught all classes — P.E., math, science — the whole bit,” her mother said.
“She was a great supporter of the underdog,” said her sister, Debbie McMillan-Myers, who was born 13 months after Sandra. “She was great; we were a very close-knit family.”
McMillan-Myers said Sandy “was an amazing person in that she always liked to have fun and was super adventurous. She was also competitive and always made up games. She was super strong and she excelled at everything,” she said, adding “and it’s been super hard” to cope with her death.
A word that continually comes up when people talk about Sandy is “caring.”
“She was an exceptional girl in so many different ways,” said her father, John McMillan. “She had a lot of good friends and cared for them and was really loved.
“She was a caring person for all of her family, friends and students. She was always there,” said Pat McMillan. “She cared about people and listened to them.”
Sandy is survived by her parents, her brother and sister and her three children, Cory Kitowski and Travis Kitowski of Cloverdale and Tabitha Kitowski of Santa Rosa. Sandy is also survived by many nieces and nephews, and was the very special “Nan” to her beloved granddaughter and grandniece.
Fittingly, an annual scholarship fund has been set up in her honor at Santa Rosa Junior College, for Sonoma County girls entering school who want to play sports. Donations can be made in her name at the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation online at santarosajc.ejoinme.org/donation or by mail at 1501 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95401.
Plans for a celebration of life are pending and there will be a formal announcement about services at a later date.
You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at email@example.com or 707-521-5209.
As someone who grew up in a small town, I enjoy covering what's happening in Windsor and Cloverdale, which are growing in their own unique ways. I delve into issues by getting to know people and finding out what’s going on in the community. I also pay attention to animal welfare and other issues that affect Sonoma County.