Obituary: Sandra (Sandy) Nash Baldonado
Former Claremont mayor, tireless city champion
Former Claremont mayor and tireless city champion, Sandra (Sandy) Nash Baldonado died peacefully after a brief illness on March 10, with her four beloved children at her bedside at Pilgrim Place. She was 88.
Born in Shanghai on February 21, 1935, to an American engineer and a magistrate’s daughter, she lived in China for the first years of her life. In 1937, after the Japanese invasion of China, the family moved to Canada and Mexico, where her father worked for Alcan aluminum. Sandy spent most of her formative years in New York City, where she was immersed in the world of art, theater, music, fashion and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
She attended Smith College, where she earned a degree in economics in 1956. While there, she participated in several sports, theater arts, and dance. In academics she excelled in Asian studies and world history.
As a senior she applied for a job with the Central Intelligence Agency hoping to use her expertise in Asian studies. While awaiting her clearance from the CIA, she worked as a buyer for Macy’s in Manhattan.
After graduation she relocated to Washington, D.C. where for two years she worked as an analyst for the CIA before taking a job in the office of then Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson. While there she met her first husband, Arthur Baldonado, who also worked for the senator while attending Georgetown Law School. She was active in the 1960 Kennedy-Johnson presidential campaign and helped organize Lady Bird Johnson’s successful whistle stop tour through the South that same year.
In 1959 she and Art were married in Washington, D.C. Later that year they moved west to be near the Baldonado family home in Los Angeles. Shortly after, the couple relocated to Covina to begin their family and professional life. It is there that they began to raise their four children: Charlie, Jamie, Andrew, and Liana.
In 1972 she returned to school and completed a master’s degree in education from The Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University). She then taught sixth grade at Claremont’s Vista Del Valle Elementary School for several years.
During this time she became active in the League of Women Voters and briefly served as its president. Disappointed in her district’s representation in the State Assembly, she exclaimed, “If I had two cents I’d run,” and her husband said, “Here’s four,” and thus began her 1976 campaign. Although unsuccessful, she did well enough to convince her to run again in 1978. The family moved to Claremont in 1977, where she was able to mount a better funded, more organized campaign. She, her children, and her new community of friends walked precincts every afternoon and left no stone unturned. Sadly, her opponent was an entrenched incumbent, and she lost by a very thin margin.
In the early 1980s she was elected to the Three Valley Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors, where she provided stability and guidance for 12 years. In addition, she and her longtime friend and campaign manager, Diann Ring, worked on several congressional and statewide campaigns. Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s she continued to be politically active statewide and served as vice chair of the California Democratic Party.
Following a divorce, she attended her 25th class reunion at Smith, where she acknowledged a longstanding desire to become a lawyer. Upon her return home she enrolled at Whittier School of Law. In 1983 she graduated, passed the bar and began to practice family law. She continued that work until 2018. During that time she took pride in representing women and children regardless of their ability to pay.
In 1987 professor George Hart entered her life and brought her much joy and peace. Together they traveled the world and made a happy home and spectacular garden. It was there that they married in 1992 with all of their children present. That happiness was cut short by George’s untimely death.
She continued with civic duty and was first elected to the Claremont City Council in 1999. She completed two terms and served as mayor for two years. A highlight of her council service was the planning and implementation of much of the Village West project.
Throughout her life she was devoted to many other community service projects and she served on numerous nonprofit boards, including House of Ruth, Pilgrim Place, Claremont Senior Services, League of Women Voters, Claremont Heritage, and the chamber of commerce.
“Sandy’s life was filled with countless acts of generosity, good deeds and impactful interactions,” her family shared.
In her final years, she devoted most of her efforts to the Claremont Museum of Art (now the Claremont Lewis Museum of Art). After serving on its board, she was elected as its third president in 2010, leading the museum through a period of rebuilding and revitalization. She, along with then Claremont City Manager Tony Ramos and the City Council, secured a new venue for the museum in the historic Claremont Depot. During her tenure the museum also greatly expanded its gallery space and its atrium is now named in her honor.
She is survived by her children and their spouses, Charles and Michele Baldonado, James Baldonado, Andrew and Susan Baldonado, and Liana and Ezra Bayles; along with grandchildren Caroline, Pauline, Alex and Grace Baldonado, and Charlie and Selina Bayles.
A celebration of her life is being planned by her many friends and the Baldonado family. The event will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 30 on the lawn of the Claremont Lewis Museum of Art.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Sandy Baldonado Endowment at the Claremont Lewis Museum of Art, at clmoa.org/donate; or to Planned Parenthood, Pomona Chapter, at plannedparenthood.org.