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Life Story / Obituary
With a servant’s heart, Sandra Hoffman-Russell lived a life rich in faith and family. Loving, generous, and kind, Sandy embodied the principles of her faith: she loved unconditionally, forgave easily, encouraged peace, remained humble, and never hesitated to share her time and talents in service to others. In so doing, she was a wonderful role model for others. A devoted wife, mother, Grammy, GG, and friend, Sandy was a gift to all who were blessed to share time with her. Cherished by many, Sandy’s beautiful spirit will long shine in the hearts of those she loved.
Despite the obvious gloom of the growing conflict in Europe, 1939 held much to celebrate, including the end of the Great Depression, the premieres of the classic films Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, regular television began to broadcast nationwide, and The World’s Fair in New York. As the U.S. actively armed for war, families continued to center their lives in love and hope for a brighter future. Nowhere was that hope more evident than in Kalamazoo, Michigan as Vernon and Bernice (Horn) Martin welcomed their daughter Sandy into their hearts and home on February 1st.
Growing up during the 40s and 50s in West Michigan, Sandy was one of the Martin’s seven children. As the eldest daughter, she was often relied upon for many household chores and was a mini-mom to her several brothers and baby sister. Sandy’s father provided for the family by working as a truck driver, while her mother carried the responsibilities of running the home and raising the children. Their home was hallmarked by a love of cars: racing and fixing them. Brother Ron eventually owned and operated Rushmore Body Shop in Kalamazoo.
After graduating from Portage Central High School, Sandy married Robert Hoffman. The couple soon welcomed their three children into their hearts. Al, Karen, and Michael were the center of the family and Sandy relished in creating a loving and supportive home for them. It was truly Robert & Sandy’s desire to provide a higher education for their children to set each of them up for success. Over the years she served as a den mother for Boy Scouts, team mother for softball, and volunteered many hours for Milwood Little League. Sandy’s calligraphy skills gracefully crafted numerous Little League World Series Certificates. Sandy possessed a wonderful sense of humor as evidenced by her claim that she grew taller with the birth of each of her children. To hear her tell it, she started her family at 4’11,” and by the end, she was 5’2”. That story was repeated more times than anyone could recount over the years!
Before Robert died in 1998, he and Sandy enjoyed many happy years. Together, they frequently played tennis, loved to bowl on leagues and take in K-Wings hockey games as well as many rounds of Pinochle with the neighbors. When the kids were young, they enjoyed bringing them to concerts and movies. Family meals were characterized by Monday night hamburgers at home, Friday nights at McDonald’s and pizza Sunday nights from Bruno’s, where the Hoffman’s were known by name.
Sandy worked at the Kalamazoo Answering Service for a time, but her greatest joy was being a homemaker. While working as a bookkeeper at Rushmore Body Shop, she had the good fortune of crossing paths with Raymond Russell. The pair were soon smitten and setting their eyes on a future spent in each other’s good company. The happy couple married and spent many lovely years together. Wonderful memories were created at the lake on the boat; 4th of July boat parades on Osterhout Lake were particularly fun. The couple also enjoyed testing their luck on the slot machines at the casino, mainly Four Winds. Sandy had a particular knack for knowing which machines to play. Quite often she’d tell someone to play a machine, and they’d walk away a winner.
Sandy was easily contented by the humble and abundant blessings in her life. The chief of these being her relationships. She nurtured her family with her cooking, infusing love and care in every morsel. She had many special dishes she loved to cook for family and friends, but her German potato salad was what they will remember most. Her birthday cakes were unrivaled. Her specialty was birthdays; she never missed one and even remembered each family member’s birth weight and time of birth! Sandy certainly had an affinity for numbers.
Many things pleased Sandy including learning to drive in her mid-thirties. Though a nervous driver, she was proud of her accomplishment and delighted in her first car, a blue Maverick. Sandy enjoyed a Jell-O shot from time to time, and was a devoted fan to all the Detroit teams, especially the Tigers. Incredibly resourceful, Sandy not only cut her family members’ hair, she could also sew absolutely anything. Her skillful hands could quickly hem and repair as well as create masterpieces. Sports coats and Halloween costumes were her specialties. Her two border collies were her cheerful companions, and she loved them dearly. Star even watched TV with her mama; the two especially enjoyed watching America’s Funniest Home Videos together.
For those who knew her best, it was easy to see that her family was her pride and joy. As her children grew, Sandy delighted in supporting them in all their endeavors. Her heart grew immeasurably when they gifted her with grandchildren. Her grandchildren were her heart’s delight, and she was their greatest supporter. She enjoyed cheering them on from the stands and proved an undauntable fan. Even being hit in the head during a softball game when the third baseman missed the catch couldn’t thwart her cheers.
Sandy possessed a childlike faith that gave her hope even on the grayest of days and inspired others to hope as well. She always said she lived so long because she knew the Lord wanted her to show others to Him. Clearly, the world is less certain without Sandy’s steadfast presence. May it afford deep comfort to know that each time we share our gifts with others, enjoy a Sunday night pizza, take a spin around the lake, play the slots, and curl up with our canine companion, we will be celebrating the best of Sandy’s legacy in our own lives. It is in moments such as these that we will feel most present to how her spirit lives on in our hearts and continues to inspire each of our days.
At the age of 80, Sandy died peacefully and went to be with her Lord on April 23, 2019. She was preceded in death by her first husband, Robert A. Hoffman, and her 3 brothers: Clinton “Sonny”, Ron, and David Martin. Surviving are her husband, Raymond Russell; 3 children: Al (Karen) Hoffman, Karen (Rod) Altom, and Mike (Julie) Hoffman; 7 grandchildren: Krista, Amber, Ryan, Erik, Maria, Andrea, and Aimee; 5 great-grandchildren: Brayden, Ayla, Isaac, Cohen, and Dylan; 3 siblings: Bobby Martin, Debra Hopkins, and Tim (Vickie) Martin; 3 stepchildren: Ray “Butch” (Melanie) Russell, Jim (Benny) Russell, and Mike Russell; several step-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. Visit with family and friends Friday (APR 26) from 5PM-7PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr., Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. A service will be held Saturday (APR 27) at 3:30 PM with visitation 1 hour prior at Agape Christian Church, 609 Cherokee St., Kalamazoo. A reception will follow in the church hall. Private burial will take place. Please visit Sandy’s personal webpage at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com, where you can read her story, archive a favorite memory, or sign her online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be directed to Hospital Hospitality House of Southwest Michigan.