It is with great sadness, and many glorious memories, that The Ossabaw Island Foundation board and staff reflect on the news of the death of Eleanor “Sandy” Torrey West, on January 17, 2021 at her home in Garden City, Georgia. Mrs. West died on her 108th birthday.
In many ways, Mrs. West embodied the spirit of Ossabaw Island, the third-largest of Georgia’s barrier islands, just south of Savannah. Mrs. West was always eager to share that spirit, and her island, with anyone. She established the Ossabaw Island Project in the 1960s and the Genesis Project in the 1970s as ways to allow students, artists, writers, scientists, ecologists, philosophers, and other intellectuals and creative thinkers to reconnect with the natural world, and with each other, in important and powerful ways.
In the late 1970s, Sandy West spearheaded her family’s effort to assure that Ossabaw Island, owned by the Torrey-West family since 1924, would remain in its unspoiled condition forever. She led her family’s negotiation of the sale of Ossabaw Island to the state of Georgia, stipulating that Ossabaw be established as Georgia’s first State Heritage Preserve. In 1978, the Torreys sold the island to the state for half of its appraised value, a family sacrifice that insured the preservation of Ossabaw.
But, more than this, Sandy West’s enthusiastic, joyful spirit, and her love of the experience of Ossabaw, inspired thousands of people over her long and fruitful life. She lived on Ossabaw full time from 1987 until 2016, and even in her final days living on Ossabaw, regularly spent time among the trees, on the beaches, and with the animals of the island.
“It is hard to imagine that the death of someone at age 108 is surprising, but we are in shock over the loss of our visionary and friend,” said Elizabeth Du- Bose, Executive Director of the Ossabaw Island Foundation. “Ossabaw Island, as we know it, exists because of Mrs. West, and Georgia is a better place because of her life’s work. We extend our deepest condolences to Mrs. West’s children, grandchildren, many other relatives, and legions of close friends.”
“I am truly distressed and saddened to learn of Mrs. West’s death,” said TOIF Board Chair M. Tyus Butler, Jr. “It was Mrs. West’s vision, determination, sensitivity, and generosity that made the island’s preservation possible, all to the benefit of the State of Georgia, the public, the arts and sciences, the environment all of us. God speed, Sandy. What a wonderful life! You are already sorely missed.”
Mrs. West’s family is in charge of her memorial arrangements.
For more information or interviews, contact Elizabeth DuBose, Executive Director of The Ossabaw Island Foundation, 912-272-8672 (phone or text), or Elizabeth@ossabawisland. or