Jan. 29, 1947 – Jan. 23, 2017
Sandra S. O’Connor, a registered nurse who worked with oncology and hospice patients, died Jan. 23 in her East Amherst home. She was 69.
Born in Buffalo, the former Sandra Smigielski grew up in St. Stanislaus Parish and as a child spoke fluent Polish. She attended Bishop Colton High School and graduated from the Buffalo General Hospital School of Nursing in 1967 as a registered nurse.
Mrs. O’Connor worked as a nurse at Buffalo General and at a hospital in Rochester before moving in the mid 1970s to Indianapolis, Ind.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Indiana University School of Nursing in 1981, where she received the Dotaline Allen Award as the most outstanding nursing student and was inducted into Sigma Theta Tau, the honor society of nursing.
She was a nursing instructor at Indiana University for a couple years, then decided to return to caring for patients, working in an intensive care unit and in the first hospice unit in Indianapolis.
Returning to Buffalo, she was a radiation oncology nurse with private physicians, then worked for 10 years with Hospice Buffalo. She retired from WNY Urology about a year ago.
Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 10, she did not let complications from the disease keep her from normal activities.
“She had such a sense of denial about her disease,” her daughter, Dr. Tracey O’Connor, an oncologist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, said. “Two weeks after surgery, she won a polka contest. She went to Disney World with us a few months ago and didn’t want to use a wheelchair. She rode the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster and wanted to ride Space Mountain.”
An accomplished cook and hostess, she also enjoyed maintaining Polish holiday traditions.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include a son, Dr. Thomas; a sister, Lynn Lozer; and five grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Saturday in the chapel at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 6919 Transit Road, Swormville.