At 22 I lost my mentor and very good friend Gene. He was a professor who died suddenly of a heart attack at age 42, leaving a small group of students who were like his extended family. He was instrumental in my choice of career at the time, choosing a graduate school, and I had just spent the summer being his assistant at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. We had spoken on the phone only a week or so before. Throughout the years I so often wished I could pick up the phone and chat or ask advice, and that he would know what a major impact he had on my life.
In the past few months, my daughters each lost mentors, taken way too young. I know they will forever think of these women and the impact they have made. When loss happens, no matter what type, if there is anything good from it, it should make us acutely grateful for the moments we have with those who bless our lives.
Sandy volunteered her time and expertise working with Harley on her preparation for both Miss Americas Teen in 2013 and Miss America this past year. I had the privilege to get to know her as well, she was like a partner mom to me throughout Harleys experiences.
Sandra "Sandy" J. Nicklas
Born on December 13, 1946 in Columbus, Ohio, Sandra Elaine Johns, was the first born child of Lt. Colonel James J. Johns and Lillian Katherine Saxon Johns. As the daughter of a US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, she moved extensively as a young girl, living in Ohio, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Denver, Colorado. In her early twenties she made Chicago her home.
Sandra graduated from East High School in Denver, Colorado and earned a Bachelor's degree from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. As a proud alumna, she regularly attended Central State's homecoming festivities. She was especially proud when the University opened the Harry G. Johns Living Learning Center on its campus, which was built in honor of her uncle who is currently the patriarch of the Johns Family.
In 1965, Sandra competed as a teenager in the Miss Denver pageant which sparked her passion to assist young girls in achieving their full potential. As such, she made the shift from contestant in 1965, to pageant support in 1997, and served as the Business Manager to Kate Shindle (Miss America 1998.) Sandy assisted young ladies in preparing for local and state competitions, as well as the Miss America Pageant. She has judged numerous local and state preliminaries from coast to coast, as well as national and state dance and cheerleading competitions. Of note was her involvement with the Miss Oregon pageant. Sandy graciously worked with Miss Oregon contestants and title holders for many years. She helped them hone their interviewing skills, resume writing, and helped them clarify and define their public service platforms. Upon hearing of Sandy's passing, Dana Phillips (Director of the Miss Oregon Foundation and a dear friend of Sandy's) wrote: "Those who had the opportunity to know her are forever changed by her influence, her classiness, humor, and elegance. She was a dear friend of the Oregon Pageant family and is survived by many sisters and adopted daughters who will carry her legacy with them always."
Sandy began her career as a United Airlines Flight Attendant on September 9, 1969. She was a forty-eight year veteran and was still actively employed at the time of her passing on December 8, 2017. She took pride in being a pioneer as one of the first African American flight attendants during a time of racial inequity. She enjoyed a successful career, and served as a Trainer, Supervisor, and a highly regarded Purser on international flights around the world.
Eularee was the theater founder and director who gave Charlie many roles throughout Elementary and Middle School. Charlie had some amazing opportunities to perform and grow through the programs at Upstart Crow Studios. Eularee was selfless and cared very deeply for the kids who worked with her. I got to know her personally as well through working on scenery and other volunteer work around the theater.
Eula Rebecca (Eularee) Smith (1951 - 2018)
Eula Rebecca (Eularee) Smith, born on September 25, 1951, died in her home on February 27, 2018. She was the founder and Executive Director of Upstart Crow Children's Theater, where no child was ever turned away.
She was a talented writer, a gifted music teacher and drama coach, an avid baseball fan, a selfless, giving person. She was a loyal, loving wife, mother and grandmother, an exceptional daughter, sister and friend.
And Abby, a young volunteer who gave her time to the Miss Oregon program to guide and shepherd teens throughout their time at workshops and at Miss Oregon week. We met her in 2013, and Abby continued to lend her gentleness to calm anxious teen contestants until cancer took her from us.