Obituary for CA newspapers:
Sandra Joy Smith Fisk
5/29/1947 – 2/17/2023
Sandra Joy grew up in rural Nebraska, but when only 21, she moved to Marin County where she lived for the rest of her life. Sandra was married to Bob Davisson from 1968 through 1978. After marrying Bob, she completed her bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State.
In 1984, Sandra met Fred Fisk; they were married on 12/10/1988. He has been her steadfast life partner. He says she was the most wonderful, gracious, loving and happiest person; the best thing that ever happened to him. Sandra enriched the Fisk family with her graceful traditions of unhurried storytelling, lovingly prepared meals and festive celebrations
An active and athletic woman, Sandra participated in the Marin Cyclists and raced sailboats out of the Sausalito Yacht Club. She ran the Bay to Breakers and Bridge to Bridge races. A member of the Sleepy Hollow Tennis Club, she played tennis for 40 years. A massage therapist for 30 years, Sandra worked at the Mt. Tam Racquet Club and had her own therapeutic massage business. She kindly and skillfully tended to her own health as she helped others.
Sandra created the photography firm, Fisk Photography www.Fiskfoto.com. Using her artist’s eye, she photographed weddings and events and took portraits, giving others the gift of memories. Sandra sang with the Winifred Baker Chorale for 40 years, including on trips to Europe.
Sandra was an active member and leader of the First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael. She served on the governing board, sang in the choir and played with the English hand bell choir. As the church historian, she took and preserved thousands of photographs and other documents that tell the 150 year old church’s story. She beautified the church for worship and helped redesign the sanctuary into a space now usable by community groups.
Sandra loved to travel and had a special affinity for art and history museums. She had a deep and abiding love of the natural world. Sandra was a lot of fun. She was an amazing friend, sharing her enthusiasm, imagination and a sense of adventure. We hold in our hearts her love, laughter, and wisdom.
Sandra met her ALS diagnosis with characteristic courage and grace. She died peacefully at home. Sandra is survived by her beloved husband Fredrick Blake Fisk, sisters Marion Kay Smith Lhotak (Jack) and Sally Jean Smith Israili (Zafar), their children and grandchildren. She will be deeply missed by all who loved her, including Fred’s family members Russ, Gloria, Scott, Shannon, Mike, and Tracy.
A Celebration of Life will be held at The First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael on April 1, 2023 at 2:00 p.m., reception following.
Sandra Joy Smith Fisk
Sandra Joy was born in Lexington, Nebraska on May 29, 1947 to Wayne Juhl Smith and Eunice Birdie Vollmer Smith. The name they chose was perfect for one who would spend her life exuding joy.
The youngest of three sisters, Sandra grew up as an active and athletic child in rural Nebraska. She lived on what her family called their farm/ranch, on land her Danish great-grandfather purchased from Union Pacific Railroad. Her dad was a fine horseman who shared his love of horses with Sandra. Growing up in the country, she developed deep and abiding appreciation for the beauty of the Earth. She loved training and showing her quarter horse, ice skating, and riding her Schwinn bike. She participated in 4-H and was a cheerleader at Cozad High School where she was in the class of 1965.
Sandra developed roots as well as wings. She had many sophisticated talents and interests, but was always unpretentious, “just folks”. At the age of 21, she was self-aware enough and brave enough to leave her family and all she knew in Nebraska and move to San Francisco.
In her 20’s, Sandra was an active member of The Marin Cyclists. She once cycled 256 miles in two days. She also joined the Sausalito Yacht Club and raced sailboats, including on all-women sailing crew. She love sailing in the Big Boat Races. Sandra was a runner who ran the Bay to Breakers and Bridge to Bridge races. She played tennis for 40 years. She was a member of the Sleepy Hollow Tennis Club. She won a women’s doubles match at the National Championships.
Sandra’s mother, Birdie, was a painter and Sandra grew up loving both art and music. Sandra developed a musician’s ear and an artist’s eye. As a young person, she studied piano and played the alto saxophone in school bands from junior high through college. She began a life-long practice of singing in her church choir. Sandra taught herself to dance by watching American Bandstand. Her musical activities ranged from belly dancing to ushering at the San Francisco Symphony. For 40 years, Sandra sang in an excellent community choral group, the Winifred Baker Chorale, including singing in England, Scotland and France. With the Chorale, she sang Bach’s Mass in B Minor for the dedication of St Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco and she sang in many symphony productions and the San Francisco Pops concerts with Arthur Fiedler.
Sandra grew up attending Buffalo Grove Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Nebraska. She attended the Presbyterian Westminster Woods Camp on the Platte River.
In California, Sandra became an active member of The First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael. A deeply spiritual and self-reflective person, Sandra was a member of a dream group for many years. At First Presbyterian, Sandra served as an Elder on the governing board of the church. Sandra played in the church’s Sounds A'Pealing Handbell Choir (this group goes back over 30 years) and in regional handbell concerts. A talented soprano in her church’s Chancel Choir, she gave and received the gift of music
Sandra was a life-long keeper of stories and history. Her ability to tell a good story has delighted many. She chronicled events in her own life and the lives of others in a way that made memories come alive. As her church historian, she took and preserved literally thousands of photographs and carefully created scrapbooks and displays of newspaper clippings, worship bulletins, photographs and other mementoes that help tell the church’s history.
In 2019, she helped coordinate her church’s 150th anniversary celebration. Her love of beauty and art extended to researching then teaching the congregation about unique frescoes painted by renowned Bay Area artist Lucienne Block and the stained-glass windows designed by famed artist Willemina Ogterop. Sandra loved to beautify the church in worship and building design. As a leader of the church’s Liturgical Arts Committee, Sandra imagined and then created beautiful and interesting colorful displays of fabrics, flowers and other materials to reflect the liturgical seasons of the year. She also served as a leader of the committee to redesign the sanctuary. Despite challenges, she helped bring a new vision to life as pews were removed, new marble flooring was put in place, and a new AV technology was installed. This flexible and inviting space has given new life to the congregation and is now regularly used by community groups.
As a child, Sandra attended a one-room country school with 9 grades. After graduating from Cozad High School in 1965, Sandra attended Hastings College, the University of Nebraska and San Francisco State College, graduating with a degree in Broadcast Communication Arts. Sandra also graduated from the Patricia Stevens Modeling School in Kansas City, Missouri and the Berkeley School of Massage.
In 1968, Sandra moved to California and married Robert Edward Davisson, Jr. who was a student at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. They were married until 1978. She slipped right in to the Davisson family, bringing fun, enthusiasm, and her loving heart. Even after her marriage to Bob ended, she nurtured and continued her relationships with the extended Davisson family. She was and is beloved by this clan.
On Father’s Day 1984, Sandra met Frederick Blake Fisk while photographing a wedding reception of a mutual friend and fellow cyclist. Fred was a bicycle racer who raced in Colombia; Sandra photographed and massaged for him. They fell in love and were married on December 10, 1988. They bought a house that needed lots of work but was in a beautiful location. Ever the good team, they spent almost 30 years remodeling it, step by step, until they’d created the beautiful home they’d envisioned. Fred says she was the most wonderful, gracious, loving and happiest person; the best thing that ever happened to him. She helped smooth some rough edges; not just for him but for his whole family. Sandra married into a self-described “utilitarian and transactional” family but she modeled more graceful traditions of unhurried storytelling, lovingly prepared meals and joyous festivities. Sandra combined her modern sensibilities with traditions rooted in community with peers, family, work and church and brought the Fisk family a richer life.
Sandra had a tremendous gift for friendship. Many who came to know Sandra say she felt like a sister. It is an understatement to say that Sandra was a lot of fun. Once Sandra bounced into someone’s life, she infused her friend’s life with her remarkable enthusiasm, imagination and optimism. Sandra asked very little of her friends; she was all about generosity and acceptance. Her many interests and talents, her openness to new experiences, her sense of adventure and fun, and her ever-present upbeat outlook ensured the longevity of rewarding friendships. She could be counted on to bring her sparkling charm and contagious spirit of play to any kind of gathering, so she easily drew people out and thereby created new bonds. She was steadfast and loving, touching her friends’ lives with laughter, wisdom and grace.
After graduating from the Berkeley School of Massage, Sandra worked at Mt. Tam Racquet Club, becoming the head masseuse. She valued her own physical health, and helped others improve theirs. She taught exercise fitness at Bob Fuller’s Conditioning Therapy. She began her own therapeutic massage business and worked as a masseuse for 30 years, skillfully and kindly tending to people in pain. She enjoyed working as the masseuse for two men trying to break the world record crossing the United States on a tandem bicycle.
Sandra’s second business was Fisk Photography. www.fiskfoto.com She was a primarily self-taught photographer with a wonderful eye. Because she is a person of great heart, Sandra’s photos often capture the very soul of a person or important life event. Her mother’s artistic talents shine through Sandra’s photos. She photographed weddings and events and took portraits for 30 years. Her photographs gave people the gift of beautiful memories. She was a member of the Friends of Photography, and the Association of Media Photographers.
Sandra loved to travel, and especially loved visiting art and history museums. Sometimes combining travel with her photography, Sandra photographed a wedding in the Wadi Rum of Jordan. She visited Petra, Cairo, Luxor, Greece, and Egypt and photographed another wedding in old Jerusalem. Sandra went to Kenya with a church group that restored an old church with the Kenyans. The group also went on safari in Kenya. Sandra sailed in the Caribbean for two weeks. She visited holy sites in Ireland and Scotland with women friends, and took a cruise to Norway. Sandra and Fred traveled to Denmark, her family’s ancestral home.
Sandra traveled throughout California, and every summer for 40 years she enjoyed happy days at her friend Patty’s mountain cabin in Chester, California. She also regularly returned to her family home in Nebraska. In 1996, Sandra and Fred purchased the family farm property from her father and owned it for 15 years before selling it to her cousin Robin Smith, keeping the homestead and the land in the family. Sandra really loved their semiannual trips to the farm homestead even though they involved a lot of hard work.
In 2022, Sandra was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, “ALS” or Lou Gehrig Disease. Although her ALS diagnosis was difficult to accept, Sandra demonstrated amazing grace and courage, and modeled a deep peace in facing life's most unexpected realities. She died peacefully at home on February 17, 2023.
Sandra’s Celebration of Life service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael on April 1, 2023 at 2:00 p.m., reception following.
Below is Sandra Joy's Life Sketch.
Sandra was a Joy. She was grateful for life’s blessings. Those who knew and loved her are grateful for the many ways she touched and changed our lives. We will always love her.
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