Sandra Ingalls van Heerden

Sandra Ingalls van Heerden

 Cornwall, N.Y.


Sandra Ingalls was born in New York City on Oct. 12, 1932, to Mabel S. Ingalls and F. Abbott Ingalls Jr. Her early years were spent in Loudonville, N.Y., near Albany, where her mother was working at Albany Medical School.

With the outbreak of World War II, Sandra spent sixth-eighth grades in Washington, D.C., at the Sidwell Friends School. She and her mother returned to New York City after the war, where she attended and matriculated from The Brearley School in 1950. Sandra had four happy years at Cornell University, was a member of Alpha Phi sorority and an avid tennis player, graduating with a BS in zoology in 1954. She then pursued a Masters of Social Work (MSW) from Columbia School of Social Work, receiving her degree in 1956.

While working toward her MSW, Sandra met a charming South African, Jan H. van Heerden, who had been invited for a tennis weekend at Clove Brook Farm as a fourth in mixed doubles. They married on Feb 2, 1957, and were together for 53 years until his death in 2010. They lived in New York City, where Sandra had grown up and where Jan worked for the United Nations, and raised three children, Christiaan, Gita and Alida. Sandra and Jan both loved the country, and spent every weekend at Clove Brook Farm. Sandra was a devoted horseback rider, and took great pleasure in caring for her many animals — horses, dogs, cows, sheep, donkeys and chickens.

During Jan’s professional life with the United Nations, Sandra and Jan traveled widely. Every two years they went to South Africa on home leave, and, because of Jan’s abiding interest in track and field, they attended nearly every Summer Olympic Games together from 1960 to 2004. Sandra, Jan and their children lived in Taiwan from 1967-69, when Jan was vice deputy director with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Sandra relished this experience and retained a deep affection for Taiwan.

By the early 1960s, Sandra’s career as a social worker in NYC was put on hold to take care of her children. In the 1970s, she returned to work, focusing on reproductive health issues. Sandra began working for The Door, an innovative provider of services for youth in NYC offering legal, psychiatric, medical and social work support in one location. She spent the remainder of her professional life working for the Community Family Planning Council (CFPC) in NYC, as director of social work. CFPC was a pioneer in women’s health care as the first family planning provider in New York state to offer prenatal care, professional social work services and HIV testing to women of all economic classes. In the early 1990s, as her mother required increasing levels of care, Sandra felt obligated to take early retirement. She is remembered with deep affection by the CFPC staff.

Sandra spent much of her life at Clove Brook Farm, in Cornwall, N.Y. Her parents had bought the farm in 1931, and Sandra considered it her true home. She and Jan placed a permanent conservation easement on the farm in 2001; knowing that the land and the view were preserved for posterity gave her great solace. It was Sandra’s wish, and fitting testament to her love for the farm, that she was able to die there, looking at her favorite view, surrounded by family, with her dog, Firkin, on her lap.

When she was not in New York or traveling internationally with her husband, Sandra would spend time at family properties established by her mother and grandparents — at Sotterley in St. Mary’s County, Md., and at Sjohytta in Northeast Harbor, where she spent nearly every summer of her life. This enabled Sandra to visit her children, who lived near those places. Anyone who enjoyed the good fortune of spending time with Sandra came away with a feeling of having experienced great hospitality. She was a wonderful entertainer and hostess, renowned for making her guests feel at home.

Sandra was an active participant on many boards over the years, including Planned Parenthood of Mid-Hudson Valley, The Nature Conservancy and Historic Sotterley.

Sandra is survived by her children, Christiaan (Northeast Harbor), Gita (Washington, D.C.) and Alida (NYC), her grandchildren, Alexi, Eliza, Kira and Abbott, and her beloved dachshund, Firkin.

Know when to pay your respects.