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Newport Beach

Volume 6, Issue 38  | May 11, 2021

In Memoriam

Sandra Dorothy Asper 

September 8, 1937 – April 20, 2021

In Memoriam Sandy Asper

Courtesy of the Asper family

Sandra Dorothy Asper (“Sandab”), 83, of Newport Beach, passed away peacefully in her sleep, at home overlooking the bay. Her course as a unique, independent woman was unknowingly charted when she was born, of all places, at Maine Eye and Ear Hospital in Portland, Maine. Little did they know at the time that she would become the eyes and ears of liberal politics in Newport Beach thirty-five years later. 

Her spirit was forged in a childhood in Maine full of moves from apartment to apartment, the love of the extended family of her mother, Hazel MacMinn, and a voracious appetite for books that began when she started reading at the age of four. When Sandab was twelve, Hazel and she joined some relatives in a five-day cross-country adventure to move to Pomona, Calif. In the fall of that year, she would start school at Lincoln Elementary, where her principal would be Alf Asper, her future father-in-law. 

Signs of Sandab’s intense and never-faltering belief in equality were exhibited at Lincoln, where she insisted on playing tackle football with the boys after school. This elicited a concerned and somewhat angry call to her mother from Principal Asper. Alf was rebuffed and her football playing continued, starting a 70-year dynamic of Sandab always being right in arguments with Asper men.

Sandab moved on to Pomona High, a school so important to her that she remained close friends with Sandy (Hamer) Bluethman, Sharon (Nicholas) Mellano, Sheila Keller and Pat McCaskill until her last days. Her years at Pomona High were highlighted by her job at Orange Belt Emporium, parties and dances and laughter with her friends, dates with nearly all of her future husband’s friends (but not him) and a sense of adventure rarely seen in 1940s suburbia.

After two years at Mt. San Antonio College, she moved on to prestigious LaVerne University, where she graduated in 1960. From that day forward that graduation was one of her proudest moments, for she had overcome near crippling anxiety, agoraphobia and a constant state on the precipice of financial ruin to get there on her own. 

After years of off and on dating, Bruce Asper finally came to his senses on July 1, 1961, and married Sandy in Carmel, Cali. Sandy had already begun her teaching career and they moved to the Peninsula Point in Newport Beach in 1967. When she got a job teaching at Newport Elementary her place as a beloved fixture in the community was firmly established. Her trailblazing ways continued at Newport El, where she introduced a nutrition class focused on healthy eating twenty years before the rest of the nation started embracing it. 

Her legacy in her adopted hometown could be seen if you followed her around town and watched her former students hug her, tell her they missed her and pass on stories about how influential she was in their lives. A student who loved reading because of her one day, another who she shopped for graduation clothes with so he could wear a sport coat to his big day at Ensign Junior High the next. 

She moved from Newport Elementary to TeWinkle Junior High (where she met lifelong friends/sisters Pam Loepkey and Paula Gibbons) to her last job as an English teacher at Ensign. Along with the students, her legacy is marked by a thirty-plus-year battle with the school board and an eventual campaign to join in that, unfortunately for the kids of Newport, failed in 2006. Like many of the windmills Sandab tilted, this battle was waged with humor and persistence, the only good allies needed in the face of mind-numbing bureaucracy and near-certain defeat. 

In retirement, Sandab continued to be as active while she was teaching, riding her bike twenty miles up to three times a week, supporting teachers in any way she could and battling the forces of evil on social media, a platform she embraced like a teenager. She traveled to New Mexico for democratic candidates, she sent postcards to Georgia voters, she called voters in Texas and railed against the way immigrant children were treated at the border. 

Her life was a good-hearted and compassionate fight for the underprivileged, a group she knew all too well growing up poor in Maine and Pomona. 

Sandy is survived by her husband, Bruce Asper, Sr., her son Bruce Asper, Jr., her daughters Lara (Asper) Sellers (Scott) and Gabriela (Asper) Reyes (Brian), grandchildren Kristin Sellers, Justin Sellers, Samantha Sellers, Mary Deck, Patrick Deck and Peter Deck. She is also survived by thousands of children she taught and the many lives she touched. 

A service was held yesterday at Christ Church by the Sea on the Balboa Peninsula with a Celebration of Life following it at Harborside Restaurant in the Pavilion in Newport Beach. The family is asking that donations be made to The Young Center at

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