Obituary of Sandra Ann Gustafson
Sandra Ann Gustafson (nee Robillard), most recently of Sun City, AZ, was called home to be with her Lord on the morning of Friday, April 28, 2023. She was preceded in death by her parents, Dorothy and James Robillard, and her brother, Paul Robillard. She is survived by her husband the Reverend Philip N. Gustafson of Sun City, son Philip J. “PJ” (Heather) Gustafson of Texas, son Timothy D. (Rhea) Gustafson of Arizona, daughter Britta J. (Andy) Sheen of Ohio, her seven grandchildren Elin, Hannah, Kellan, Audrey, Carsyn, Eden, and Drew, her siblings Gloria (Wayne) Bloomquist of Massachusetts, Robert (Brenda) Robillard of Tennessee, and Michelle (Craig) Carlson of Massachusetts, and an aunt, an uncle, and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.
Sandy was born on December 12, 1956 in Oxford, MA, welcomed by her parents and two older siblings. Early in childhood her family relocated to Auburn, MA, where they welcomed a younger brother and sister, the latter of whom still lives in their childhood home. In her youth, she enjoyed reading books and riding bikes with siblings and friends. She attended and graduated from Auburn High School, where she was involved in the school choir and met her life-long friend Cheri Bolouk.
In late 1978 she met Phil Gustafson, a seminary student from Erie, PA interning at her home church, Bethel Lutheran Church, in Auburn. They soon fell in love and on June 10, 1979, they were married at Phil’s home church, Erie’s Bethany Lutheran Church, the day after Phil became an ordained Pastor at the same location. Following the wedding, they relocated to Freedom Township, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh, where they began their life together and Pastor Phil began his life of ministry. A year and a half later, Sandy and Phil welcomed their firstborn son PJ and soon after moved to Youngstown, PA, also in the Pittsburgh area. There they welcomed their second son Tim. In 1986, Sandy and Phil and their boys moved to Pittsfield, MA, then two years later to Brattleboro, VT. Whilst there, Phil and Sandy’s family was completed when they welcomed their daughter Britta.
The early 1990’s saw Sandy and family moving halfway across the country to Imperial, MO, near St. Louis. A decade later they returned to western Pennsylvania when they moved to Vandergrift, and a decade after that they returned to Massachusetts when they moved to Holyoke. Sandy and Phil ultimately retired to Sun City, AZ in 2020 to enjoy year-round sunny weather and be near their son and daughter-in-law, Tim and Rhea, and their children. They enjoyed frequent visits to see PJ and Britta and their families as well.
Sandy always had a servant’s heart and her true calling was to be a mother or mother figure to others. She was a caring and nurturing stay-at-home mom to her sons early in their lives, then in Vermont she worked as a paraprofessional in a special needs classroom at Green Street Elementary - which was quite possibly the first job where she was truly happy and fulfilled. Sandy made it her mission to attend every single sporting event, concert, performance, competition, or activity any of her children were involved in throughout their lives. Any time her kids or one of their friends was struggling or needed a place to go whilst growing up, Sandy was there to comfort them, care for them, feed them, and even take them in. As her kids grew up and moved out on their own, she would frequently visit them to help care for and nurture her grandchildren. She also had a knack for finding others, young and old, whom she could befriend and help in her communities, be it providing transportation to the grocery store or doctor’s visits, or even just to provide company and a listening ear over a cup of coffee. Even to her last days, she was involved in a ministry to crochet hats to ship to youth who needed them around the country or world.
In the various places she lived, Sandy made numerous friends throughout her life - too many to name here for fear of unintentionally omitting someone. Her family would like you to please know that if you have ever shared the gift of your company with Sandy, it truly left a positive impact on her and she was better because of it. Sandy loved to say that “Friends are the family you get to choose.” She truly thought of all of her friends as extensions of her family, as evidenced by always welcoming those who were away from their homes or family into her home and to her table not just on holidays but plenty of random days as well. She had a huge heart and loved to share it with all whom she met.
Visitation will take place from 5:00-6:00pm PDT and the funeral service will take place from 6:00pm - 7:00pm on Friday, May 5, 2023 at Dream City Church in Glendale, AZ. The family asks that people attending in person please wear bright colors. Future gatherings of remembrance will be held at dates and locations TBD in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in her memory to the Joyful Hands crochet ministry at Dream City Church - Glendale.
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