Mary Joan Sandstrom, a New Jersey native and long-time resident, died peacefully in her sleep on March 5, 2019 at the Park Place Center in Monmouth Junction, NJ. She was 58 years old and battling dementia disease.
Mary was born in 1961 in Teaneck with Downs Syndrome. The youngest of four children, she moved in 1976 with her parents, Lennart and Ottilia Sandstrom, to Long Island, where she earned her high school diploma from the Sachem School District, an achievement which delighted her and her family.
She returned with her parents to Lawrenceville, NJ, in 1987. After their deaths in 1995 and 1996, she moved first to a supervised apartment and then a group home. Mary thrived in her new life, working at several sheltered workshops until she retired to the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities (NJID) Day Program. As everyone at NJID quickly recognized, Mary was an extrovert with a keen sense of humor, many friends, and a passion for country music and dancing. She particularly enjoyed Kenny Rogers. During her years at NJID she was assisted and loved by the staff, especially Kellie Hirth, her favorite “go to” person for all her needs.
Mary competed many times in the New Jersey Special Olympics, winning medals in bowling, bocce, swimming and table tennis. An avid swimmer, she looked forward to her annual vacations on Long Beach Island, where she enjoyed time on the beach with her extended family and friends, including her aunt, Rita Zimmermann, and her cousins, Tom and Suzanne Zimmermann and their daughters.
Mary’s adult life was enriched by the advocacy and support services of the Planned Lifetime Assistance Network of New Jersey (PLAN/NJ). Staff members Jason Miller and Nadine Hoston monitored her care for many years, providing valuable assistance not just to Mary, but also to her sister Barbara Sandstrom, who assumed responsibility for her after their parents’ deaths.
In addition to her parents, Mary is predeceased by her brothers John and Robert, her aunt and uncle Rita and Hans Zimmermann, and her cousin Thomas Zimmermann. She is survived by her sister, Barbara, of Pennington, NJ; Barbara’s daughter, Kirsten Dorans (Chris Hayes), of New Orleans; and her cousins, Suzanne, Katie, Jill, and Allie Zimmermann, of Mountainside, NJ.
A graveside service will be held at St Mary’s Cemetery, 1200 Cedar Lane, Trenton, NJ 08648 on Friday, March 8th at 11 AM. Arrangements are under the care of Blackwell Memorial Home, Pennington. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made PLAN/NJ, P.O. Box 547 Somerville, NJ 08876. When making a donation, please indicate that it is in memory of Mary Sandstrom.