School 13

Sandra Ramirez

August 25, 1934 ~ June 27, 2022 (age 87)


Alexandra Elizabeth (Ramsbotham) Ramirez (known to all as Sandra), wife of Gail Viens, died at home on the morning of June 27, 2022 from a recently diagnosed lymphoma.

Sandra was born in Burnaby on August 25/34, a sister to adopted four-year old brother, Denny.  The family moved around in her early years, as her Lancashire-born father, Dennis Hughes Ramsbotham was an engineer in the Canadian Navy.   Her mother, Mabel Vivian Davies, of Cranbrook, BC was a formidable force in making sure that Sandra was able to experience all the things she had wanted to do.  The family moved from Esquimalt to Halifax and back to Burnaby, to a one acre which allowed Sandra to have Albert, her mule who she rode everywhere, including to Little Flower Academy.  This was the seed that was planted in Sandra’s mind and grew to fruition as she became a farmer in adulthood.

She played badminton and tennis, skied and swam.  Although she informed her mother that she preferred the violin to piano and ballet, she was given both piano and ballet lessons nonetheless.  Her piano teacher praised her technique, but claimed that she had no feeling for the music; thus ended her music lessons.  She loved the symphony and, throughout her life, Sandra’s favourite instrument was a turntable or CD player.  She received a violin for her 85th birthday and taught herself how to play without learning how to read notes but by giving the notes, different colours.

When Sandra graduated from high school at 16, she informed her mother that she wanted to become a nun.  This was not deemed acceptable, so she earned a degree in English literature from UBC, which was expected, and then she joined the Sisters of Saint Ann in Victoria.  She moved many times during her time in the convent and also earned a Master’s Degree in her field of study.  Sister Mary Sandra was an acknowledged saviour, friend, mentor, and role model.  Many of her students have said she was the best teacher they ever had!  For teens, high school can be a tough slog emotionally, but Sandra nurtured her students and they benefitted from her loving care.  An example of this comes from a comment that “Sandra was the only teacher who left me with happy school memories.  Her mirth, light heartedness, and joie de vivre inspire me still.”  Sandra felt that one of her greatest accomplishments was establishing and running the Richmond Incentive School for motivated junior secondary students.  To this day, she thinks of them as “her boys”.

Sandra was always a bit of a rabble rouser and left the SSA to experience more of the world around her.  She met Patricio Ramirez while teaching in Richmond, and was married for a good 15 years before separating.

Shortly after taking early retirement, Gail walked into her life.  Gail was looking for a Spanish teacher in preparation for a mission to Peru.   Sandra was now farming hogs, laying hens and milk goats; all animal husbandry skills gleaned from textbooks. The city kid had finally become a farmer in Langley.  Although Gail was working as a lab tech in Vancouver, she offered to help on the farm in exchange for Spanish lessons from Sandra.  Even though it took 3 years for Gail to get the missionary wanderlust out of her system, Sandra was patient.  They purchased Chacra Nuestra, a 12-acre farm in Mara, BC, where “the girls” provided quality home-raised lamb, goat, pork and eggs for 22 years.  The “girls” were known for their quality meat and even had a winning ‘sow with piglets’ at the IPE one year.

In 2009, Sandra began to have health issues, and a move to Salmon Arm ensued in 2014.  Gail was already musically involved in Salmon Arm so it was the logical place to retire.   Gail was in the Shuswap Singers and the Shuswap Community Band and most recently, the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Programme.  Sandra’s constant support and encouragement were evident throughout.  During Covid, Gail when needed a project, Sandra bought her a bassoon.  Now, two years later, Gail plays this instrument and reads bass clef music! Thank you, Sandra!

Sandra is survived by Gail, her wife of 33 years; a nephew, Tim; a niece, Jane (David); a great nephew, Bodie and several cousins; Gail’s therapy dog, Sam the corgi and Sandra’s best dog yet, the dachshund, Alegría.

Gail would like to thank Dr. Liz Watson for her weekly check in phone calls and together with Dr. Liz Montgomery, for their support of Sandra’s MAID deliberations.  However, before anything could be enacted, Sandra died suddenly.

Sandra asked that folks celebrate her life by raising a glass with friends while remembering favourite stories.  The best story teller ever has left the room. 

In lieu of flowers please make a donation to your charity of choice.


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