SANDRA JEAN COULTER (1950-2016)
Sandra (Sandy) Jean Coulter died peacefully at her home in Burien, WA on November 10, 2016. Cause of death was breast cancer. So ended the fully-lived life of a kind and adventurous woman, who had much to say for herself and a great deal to offer. She was 66.
Sandy started her journey through life on April 9, 1950 in Seattle, WA. She was the second of four children born to Jean (Campbell) and Arthur Coulter. However, staying in one place and living ordinary lives was not the Coulter way. Arthur, a geologist and drilling engineer, had accepted a position with ARAMCO in Saudi Arabia, and Sandy’s green temperate world was soon transformed into one of endless sand, swimming pools, and horses. She thrived in this environment, developing a life-long love of the outdoors and wide-open spaces. She also excelled. As a member of the ARAMCO elementary school swim team she won a drawer-full of medals, which she was always rather proud of. And as an aspiring equestrian she learned how to gently handle King, her spirited, intelligent Arabian horse, experiencing the sheer joy of galloping full rein across desert tracks near her home.
In 1961 Arthur accepted a job with the Occidental Petroleum Company and the Coulter family moved to Beirut, Lebanon. That fall, Sandy along with her three siblings (Terry, Deborah, and Tim) were enrolled at the American Community School (ACS). She would later describe the next six years as having the biggest impact on her life. Quickly making life-long friends and enthusiastically embracing the vibrant, international scene that Beirut offered, she also took full advantage of the many outdoor activities that were readily available and easily accessible. For those who knew Sandy then, some of their best memories include her smiling face as she engaged in one of her favorite sports; body-surfing waves rolling in on sandy beaches; riding her horse YaEin through umbrella pine forests; skiing hell-bent down the slopes at the mountain resort Faraya; and hiking the limestone, thyme-scented hills rising up behind and beyond Beirut. These years Sandy spent in Lebanon also had a profound influence on her world view and future political convictions. And, as anyone who knew Sandy will attest, her thoughts and opinions on such matters were strongly held and, if necessary, hotly debated.
In 1968, Sandy graduated from ACS. This event marked the end of her Beirut experience, as she and her family returned to Seattle, WA. Sadly, it also marked the end of her relationship with a man who had brightened her Junior and Senior years and who was the love-of her life. Sandy never married and in the days before her death she spoke of the time she spent with him as the happiest of all. Back in the U.S., Sandy enrolled in the University of Puget Sound, later transferring to the University of Washington (UW). Here her passion for history and interest in China led to a major in Asian Studies and the daunting task of learning Chinese. Four years later, with two bachelor degrees in hand, she went to Taiwan, where she continued this course of study at the University of Taiwan, while helping to make ends meet by teaching English as a second language.
In 1983 Sandy returned to the US, having decided to combine her ability to speak Chinese and her knowledge of Asian cultures with a business career. Toward this end, she accepted a teller’s position with Peoples Bank and then worked her way up to the loan officers desk, where for many years she had the best record in the bank.
Having established firm credentials in the world of finance, she was well-qualified for a job that opened up with the Japanese bicycle manufacturing company, Sakae. This job turned out to be a perfect fit for Sandy. At the time Sakae had a plant in Seattle and was in the process of opening another in China. Sandy thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of developing a U.S. market for the light-weight, carbon steel bikes Sakae produced. She also made many trips to Japan, acquiring a high level of respect and admiration for the cultures as well as being able to indulge her love for sushi. The job with Sakae introduced Sandy to the world of biking, which she took to with all the enthusiasm she had for other sports in her life. It was not long before she was entering biking events around the Pacific Northwest, including the annual Chilly Hilly on Mercer Island and the 200+ mile, Seattle to Portland event. And it was not long before she had her family and friends outfitted and joining her on Sunday morning rides, which would usually include a brunch or pancake breakfast somewhere along the way.
In 1995, Sakae decided to sell its bicycle division and Sandy was given the unenviable task of closing down its North American operations. She did so successfully, but not before finding all her Sakae employees other jobs, which in turn, earned her high marks from the Seattle business community.
However 1995 turned out to be a watershed year for a completely different reason. This was the year Sandy was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her career and active life-style was put on hold as she endured surgery, treatments, and a year of recuperation. When she was finally ready to restart her life she resolved to take her career in a new direction. She decided to find a small, promising company in the Seattle area that she could help grow and that offered partnership potential. After researching and interviewing firms, Sandy found Modelwerks and so began her successful, rewarding career as financial officer and part owner of the company.
Outside of the time Sandy dedicated to her business, she enjoyed travelling, remodeling her house, driving her high performance Ford Mustang, and attending ACS/ARAMCO Brat reunions. Special, memorable times were also spent with family: regular Sunday dinners; excursions with sister Deborah to local nurseries in search of rare rhododendrons; and, when her cancer returned, a whirl-wind trip to Europe to visit brother Tim and his family. And then, before becoming bedridden, she managed one more adventure with Deborah and brother-in-law Bill – a cruise to Alaska that was full of joy and sadness- but nonetheless an experience that helped Sandy muster the mental fortitude she needed to face her final journey.
These last 20 years of Sandy’s life were truly a culmination of all she had been and all she had become. She kept the good and strived for the better. She was never one to grandstand; but in her own quiet way she acquired a retinue of friends and colleagues who valued her strength of character and dogged determination to succeed in everything she set out to accomplish. Yet what made these attributes all the more remarkable was her unassuming, warm personality and a smile that could make your day. Put simply, people just liked spending time with Sandy. She was a person who added up to someone quite extraordinary.
Sandy is survived by sister Deborah Coulter-Allan , (husband Bill), and brother Tim Coulter (wife Astrid), as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins. She was preceded in death by her parents and brother Terry. Remembrances are welcome and may be sent to ForeverMissed.com.