Sandra was born in Chicago on June 23, 1949 to Helen Small and Arthur Coles, Sr. “Ms. Helen”, as she was known in the neighborhood, was a single parent and doted on her only child, instilling in her values about community, the importance of education, and caring for others. As a child, Sandra attended the Church of the Good Shephard, and had a strong, unfailing devotion and dedication to her various church families and the Lord. She attended Edmund Burke Elementary and Englewood High School – where she was quite active in A’Capella Choir, dance, and the National Honor Society. Being popular, she met and maintained many lifelong friends. She graduated third in her high school class, and received numerous college scholarship offers.
Sandra was a first generation college student and attended Northwestern University because it was close to home, arriving in the fall of 1967. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from NU, culminating in a Master of Arts degree in Counseling. She became an activist and was a member of the Bursar’s 100, the group that shut down the Bursar’s Office in protest to demand that the university change their culture and institute Black student initiatives. During her first semester, she met her life partner, James Hill, and they married in October 1969 as juniors. They celebrated 50 years of marriage last year – and their union produced 3 children: Janine (1976), Melanie (1980), and Ryan (1984). After graduation, Sandra and her family settled in Evanston and was well-known for her community work, working at NU, District 65, the Cradle, and ending her work career as the Executive Director of Family Focus Evanston.
Sandra also was quite active in her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and achieved Golden Soror status (50 years) in 2019. She served on the District 65 and McGaw YMCA Boards. She loved volunteering with youth and providing mentoring to young girls at Evanston Township High School until her illness this year. Upon retiring, Sandra quickly became a grandmother to Nia (2008), who was the apple of her eye. She joined Second Baptist Church (SBC) and was baptized in August 2015 and, as with most things, quickly became an integral part of her chosen church home, becoming the Coordinator of the Health and Wellness Ministry. SBC awarded Sandra the Nathaniel Branch Leadership Award for Faith in 2016. She was also elected to serve on the church’s Nominating Committee. After an illness of several months in the spring and summer of 2020, Sandra’s big heart for people and causes gave out, and she quietly passed away on August 10, 2020. She was preceded in death by her brother, Arthur Coles II and parents. She leaves to mourn her loss and cherish her memory her husband James Hill; children Janine, Melanie, and Ryan; granddaughter Nia Lewis; brother Michael Coles (Linda), and many nieces and nephews as well as close friends and the community she served.
Arrangements entrusted to Thompson Funeral & Cremation Services, Inc. Mr. Philip L. Gillette ~ Funeral Director
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