A Remarkable Life

When you stop and think about it, each of our lives have been blessed with so many amazing people. But for the grace of God, our paths might never have crossed. I suppose, then, I’d not realize just how much I had missed out on.

Such is my situation with a guy named John Sandvig. Over the past decade, I took a crash course on all the things this guy had done in his lifetime and all the time, while we were in each other’s backyard. He was a radio guy, and so was I, in the Seattle market, 25+ years ago.

But while I was playing Christopher Cross, Celine Dion and other soft rock artists over at KLSY, John ended being the Sales Manager over at KISW during its rock hey day. While I posed for pictures with Darius Rucker, Kenny Loggins and Sarah MacLauchlan, John got to hang out with bands like the Who, Led Zeppelin and so many more.

I know we would have had a hoot together had our paths crossed back in those days, but it was not meant to be.

At one of the Soundie Awards, John got to hang with one of my all-time idols, Stan Freberg

Somewhere around 2010, I attended a Police concert at the Key Arena at the Seattle Center. It was a great show and as the last song wrapped up, my wife looked at the guy I had been sitting next to all night long and she said, “I think I know him.” The wheels spun furiously until the pieces came together and she leaned over and said to him, “You’re John Sandvig, right?”

I swapped places with her and they began to talk about old times. Technically speaking, John was Victoria’s mom’s cousin. But because they were much closer in age, they always kind of thought of each other as cousins. Over the course of time, she had lost touch with John, but this was a much-appreciated reunion.

That’s what I’m trying to explain. I’ve only known this guy for a little over 10 years, but in that time, I learned so much about him.

Prior to meeting him, I had heard Victoria reference his parents, Jerome and Clair, who were like Ballard Norwegian music royalty. They sang all over town, threw fabulous parties and Ballard was their stomping ground. I know on more than one occasion, we’ve gone and placed flowers on their graves at the cemetery not far from us.

John grew up in Ballard and attended Ballard High school. For a stretch, John dated a nice girl named Bunny. However, when high school ended, they went their seperate ways.

I learned that while at Pacific Lutheran College in Tacoma back in the day, he was in a band called The Deacons. They had a regional hit with a song called, “You can’t get there from here,” with John singing the lead vocals. Remember, he came from a musical family. They performed together from 1964-1968 at all kinds of Northwest venues, including a one-year stretch where they did over 300 shows.

In 2014, the Deacons reunited for one more performance at PLU for homecoming. 50 years later, the band was back together. In fact, John’s wife Bunny actually sewed all their band costumes for them. Yes, Bunny, from those high school days. After attending a Ballard High class reunion, there were now both single and they fell back madly in love. For the last 10+ of John’s life, he got to spend his final decade on earth with his high school sweetheart.

I loved how the sign said, “In Person.”

Wow, that PLU concert was 7 years ago. This blog helped me remember that night.

A couple of years ago, John was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At first, it was a slow decline, but it just kept getting worse. The last two to three years of John’s life were spent in a thickening fog. We got to see him a couple of times, and, at first, he was so excited to see us. In later visits, it took time for him to slowly remember who we were, when that smile of his would return. But sadly, after visiting with him, 30 minutes later he wouldn’t have remembered we were even there.

Damn you, Alzheimer’s.

He took his last breath this year on July 11th. That happened to be John and Bunny’s 12th wedding anniversary.

This past Saturday, family and friends gathered to look at old pictures of all those years gone by, and share stories. It wasn’t surprising that there was a flood of fun and laughter as we reflected on the life of this man who came into the world only 76 years ago.

He was a man of faith, a caring husband, father, grandfather and friend and even though I only scratched the surface of knowing him, I had a chance to witness his world and the people around him. There’s no denying, John Sandvig was one remarkable man.

George visiting John near the final stretch

Former Seattle Supersonics stadium voice, George Toles, recorded a video eulogy that was played on Saturday. He had lots of stories about John and their radio sales days together, with a few jokes tossed in. My favorite: “John is now up in heaven, where there are no tears, there are no wars, and there are no Houston Astros.”

It was completely my pleasure to know you, John Sandvig. Rest well. I promise you’ll be among the first people I look up.

Tim Hunter


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