Sandy West leaves her beloved Ossabaw Island

Sandy West, who plowed her heart, soul and fortune into her beloved Ossabaw Island, left home earlier this month for an assisted living facility in Savannah.

At 103, with waning health and finances, Sandy crossed Ossabaw Sound by boat for perhaps the last time. A son, Justin West, has said she needs round-the-clock care in a less-expensive setting.

Sandy's departure from Ossabaw marks the end of an era along Georgia's coast.

“Perhaps I am being a Pollyanna, but my feeling is not sadness, but relief. Sandy is safer now,”Al Bradford, who once helped run the island’s cultural and environmental programs, said Tuesday. “She and Ossabaw are still together, despite a few miles of physical separation. They are like an old happily married couple: when you are with one of them, you are with the essence of the other.”

Sandy's father bought the barrier island in 1924 and a gilded life of leisure awaited. Indolence, though, wasn't for Eleanor "Sandy" Torrey West. The one-time millionaire plowed every cent into the island's educational and cultural pursuits while fiercely guarding Ossabaw's natural beauty.

The money, though, ran out. Sandy and her family sold the island to the state of Georgia in 1978. The deal allows Sandy to remain on Ossabaw, in the family’s Spanish Revival-styled pink mansion, until her death.

A GoFundMe account was established last year to cover Sandy's home health care and to keep the electricity on. She was recently the subject of a Personal Journey profile in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that helped trigger donations to the account.

Nearly $70,000 had been raised from more than 600 people, more than one-third since the AJC story ran. But that wasn’t enough, apparently, to keep Sandy on Ossabaw.

“The Ossabaw Island Foundation, staff, volunteers and guests will miss catching glimpses of Mrs. West traveling around the island with her caretakers and friends,” said Elizabeth DuBose, the foundation’s executive director. “Now that Mrs. West is staying in Savannah we all have the opportunity to visit with her on a regular basis.”

Foundation staff, a caretaker and a state wildlife official will maintain residences on the island. Sandy, though, isn't likely to return.