Juanita (Klein) Sandman

On the morning of June 22, 2015, Juanita (Klein) Sandman, 91, peacefully passed away in the presence of her daughters and caregiver at Our House Assisted Living after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Juanita was born on Sept. 5, 1923, the middle child to Elwin and Myrtle Klein in Livingston. Juanita’s brother Elwin was born first in 1921, and her baby sister Erlene (LaDuke) followed her in 1925. Tragedy struck this young family in early 1931, when Juanita’s mother became ill and passed away at 32 years of age in July of 1933 when Juanita was 10 years old. Their family broke apart and went in different directions.  

Juanita was on her own before 15 years of age, and began working for various families for room and board cleaning homes, cooking, doing laundry and child care while she completed high school. After graduating from high school, her life turned around when she got a job with the signal department and began a 30-year career with the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Life had another bright turn when she met a handsome young railroader, Don Sandman. They were married on Nov. 17, 1951, at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Livingston. After her turbulent childhood, she settled into married life in Livingston and she was able to fulfill her dream of being a mother to two daughters, Diane and Linda Sandman. Juanita was an outstanding cook and hostess to family and friends. She enjoyed gardening, card club, picnics, camping and travel far and wide.

Don and Juanita retired from the railroad in 1982, and left Livingston and spent winters at their home outside of Yuma, Arizona. They summered in the Flathead Valley and then moved there permanently in 1994, where they enjoyed boating and fishing on various lakes in the area, delved into the cherry business and built their retirement home in Kalispell. 

She loved the Flathead Valley, especially the arts community, and the Big Fork Playhouse. Mom enjoyed being a volunteer at Kalispell Regional Hospital for many years. Juanita and her husband, Don, were active in Democratic politics. She was especially proud to be one of Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s first volunteers when he sought political office and loved witnessing his career unfold. 

With her husband in failing health, Don and Juanita moved to the Waterford (Touchmark) in Helena in 2004 to be closer to family. Juanita enjoyed supporting her daughter Linda in starting her Assisted Living business, SonHeaven. Juanita moved to SonHeaven as a resident in 2012, where she received loving care from the staff in support of her increasing dementia. 

In April of this year, she moved to Our House Assisted Living, where she made her final passage. Her daughters and friends are profoundly grateful for the loving care she received from her private caregiver, Christine Christianson, the awesome staff angels at SonHeaven (especially her dear Julie Bird), and the attentive compassionate care of Jo and LeRoy Gibson at Our House Assisted Living. The care she received at SonHeaven Assisted Living and Our House was Helena’s best. The family thanks Frontier Hospice, Celeste RN and the hospice team for their care and support the last several months of Juanita’s life.

Juanita will always be remembered for her generosity of spirit, and long and abiding friendships and ability to share her love with others — her hugs and smile, and being an amazing mother, hostess and cook.

Juanita is preceded in death by her parents, siblings, husband Don and grandson Ross. She is survived by her daughters Diane Sandman, of Denver, and Linda Sandman (Viv Hammill), of Helena; as well as numerous nieces and nephews (especially her grand-niece Karen LaDuke, with whom she had a lifelong close relationship). 

In lieu of flowers, the family suggest donations be sent to Camp Make-a-Dream (a cost-free camp for children and young adults with cancer), P.O. Box 1450, Missoula, MT 59806-1450; or visit the website www.campdream.org.

A memorial service and celebration will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 30 on the deck of SonHeaven Assisted Living, 2540 Ferndale Lane in Helena. There will be live music with Rick Wine and an ice cream social. Lowell Bartels will be officiating the service. To offer condolences or to share a story about Juanita please visit www.helenafunerals.com.