Obituary: Sandy Hester
Grandmother, longtime Democratic activist, civil liberties champion
Sandra Kay (“Sandy”) Hester, a Claremont resident since 1972, died July 28 at the age of 80 in Claremont.
She was born in Los Angeles on January 19, 1943 to Sally Alexander and Stan Smalley. Sandy’s parents, both accomplished individuals, instilled in her a strong commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of others and her community.
Her educational journey began at George Washington High School in Inglewood, California. She later pursued higher education at Cal State Fullerton, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and community organization. She continued her studies at Claremont Graduate University, earning a Master of Public Policy degree.
She dedicated herself throughout her career to addressing various societal issues and developing programs and policies to promote civil liberties, fair and humane justice programs, and independent living for older adults and individuals with disabilities. She held positions with several nonprofit organizations, including Planned Parenthood, where she served as public affairs director. She also worked as a congressional representative for the late California Congressman Matthew Martínez and as a research and program associate at The Claremont Colleges. Additionally, she contributed her skills as a SEIU union organizer, a public service television program producer, and an associate director at the Health Care Council of Orange County. She also provided valuable services to the David and Margaret home, a residential treatment center for girls in foster care in La Verne.
A lifelong Democrat, she actively participated in politics, running for California State Senate in 1988, 1992, and 1994. She played a crucial role in reactivating the Democratic Club of Claremont in 1973 and was a founding board member of The American Institute for Progressive Democracy, a West Coast think tank. In 2017, U.S. Representative Judy Chu recognized her numerous accomplishments and contributions as a community activist, volunteer, and senior citizens’ advocate, naming her woman of the year for the 28th Congressional District.
Her dedication to service extended beyond her professional life. Even in retirement, she remained actively involved in the Democratic Club of Claremont, serving as both president and vice president. She was a proud member of the Newcomers Access Center in Claremont, where she assisted newly arrived refugees and immigrants from various countries, ensuring they felt welcomed and supported during their integration into the community. She also opened her home in later years to international students from the Keck Graduate Institute who required housing.
She and her first husband Chuck enjoyed camping and were cherished members of the Montclair Campers travel group. Later in life, she shared this passion with her partner, John Ammon.
Her love for her family was evident in her unwavering support of her grandchildren. She never missed a soccer or football game, a CHS play, or any activity in which they participated, always cheering them on with enthusiasm.
A ceremony to honor her life will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, September 1 at Todd Memorial Chapel, 570 N. Garey Ave., Pomona, CA 91767.
She is survived by her sister Sherry Curtis (Earl); son Charles (“CJ”) Hester; daughter-in-law Juli Hester; granddaughters Dalanee Hester and Catherine Hester; son Dennis Hester (Salpi Panossian); daughter-in-law Anna Santia; grandson Dennis Hester Jr. (Chelsea); grandsons Caden Hengesbach and Vincent Hengesbach and their father Daren Hengesbach; daughter-in-law Shelley Ammon Smith (Devon), Peyton Smith, and Milo Smith.
She was preceded in death by her first husband, Chuck Hester, with whom she shared 48 years of marriage; and her partner of 10 years, John Ammon, who died October 27, 2021.
“Sandy will be remembered for her unwavering commitment to advocating for social justice, her dedication to her community, and her deep love for her family,” her family shared. “Her legacy will continue to inspire others to make a positive difference in the world.”
In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made by check to the Sandy Hester Scholarship for Outstanding Young Democrat at Claremont High School, 1601 N. Indian Hill Blvd. Claremont, CA 91711.