IRVINGTON, NJ — Solid Rock Baptist Church on Chancellor Avenue was filled to capacity Friday, March 29, as hundreds attended the funeral of South Ward Councilwoman Sandy Jones. She was 76 years old.
According to township officials and her family and friends, Jones was found dead inside her home on Maple Avenue on Thursday, March 21. Many who were stunned by her unexpected death came to pay their respects, including Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, East Orange Democratic Committee and Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones, Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, East Orange Mayor Ted Green, Newark City Council President Mildred Crump and Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos. Several former elected officials were also in attendance, including former Irvington Mayor Mike Steele, former East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor and former East Orange 4th Ward Councilwoman Sharon Fields.
“I must admit to everybody in here that I don’t know Miss Jones as an elected official. I didn’t meet her as the councilperson. I met the councilperson later on, as I got involved in politics myself. That’s where I met Councilwoman Jones,” said Baraka on Friday, March 29. “But I knew Miss Sandy because she was Scott’s mother. And we grew up around the corner from each other and Scott was always in my house, so his mother was in my house. Scotty and I were very close and we still are.”
Baraka said he and Jones’ son, Scott Sinkler, were so close that “he followed me down to D.C. to Howard University when I went.” Baraka said “his mother allowed that” because “his mother and my mother were friends.”
“Every time I saw Miss Sandy, she never talked to me about politics, at least not the politics of this place, but just about the politics of our families, like ‘How are you, How’s your mother?, How’s your brother?, Is he in trouble?, Are you OK?, What’s going on?’ Those kind of questions that sometimes become uneasy, because you’re used to the political scene and she comes and reminds you that you’re just a little kid from 10th Street and Clinton Avenue.”
“Her passing kind of reminds me of my dad’s passing and the passing of other elders in our families and our communities, because I consider Scott and Sandy, Miss Jones, as family,” Baraka continued. “It reminds me of the passing of our families of our elders, which means that we have a greater responsibility now, that we shouldn’t take this for granted.”
Baraka’s words were echoed by most in attendance, often with Biblical references.
“Let’s not hang up on Sandy. Let’s not hang up on the family,” said Leroy Jones on Friday, March 29. “Let’s live her life as if she’s still here, because her spirit still lives in us. Let’s celebrate always the life of Sandy Jones.”
Among the fond remembrances, Tucker elevated her to almost superhuman status.
“I just want to say Sandy was what I call a ‘superwoman.’ She was a servant of the people,” said Tucker on Friday, March 29. “She was always a phenomenal woman, caring and loving. She loved her son, Scott, most of all and then she loved her community.”
Jones’ cousin Allen Brathway agreed with Tucker that family was a focal point of her life. He said he will be eternally grateful that family included him, too.
“She would affectionately call me when she didn’t hear from me for a while and, when everything was going good, she would screech out my name: ‘Allen,’” said Brathway on Friday, March 29. “Sandra has always been a pillar of our family. She’s always been an activist. She’s always been the one to help other people. She never complained about her condition or her situation and it was really depressing to hear the news that she had passed because, on March 20, she called me and said: ‘My feet hurt, but I need to get to work.’ And I said: ‘Well how are you going to get to work?’ And I was driving through an area that had a lot of wetland and the call dropped, so I said, well, you know I’ll talk to her tonight, tomorrow or whenever.
Brathway recalled that Sandy was always a Brooklyn girl at heart and an “avid Knicks fan.”
“I worked for the Knicks for 16 years and I had the opportunity to come back to Brooklyn and Sandy came to visit and she wrote a letter to the ownership of the Knicks and asked me to deliver it, because she was so disgusted the way the Knicks were playing. She tried to use her title as councilperson to make sure that it was a potentate delivering this message. So in the words of Fred G. Sanford, and ‘G’ stands for ‘greatness,’ Sandy, when the Lord calls me, I’m coming to join you. You’ll recognize me because I’ll be the one with Knicks tickets.”
Brathway and Sinkler both thanked everyone who attended Jones’ funeral and who expressed their sentiments online.
“I just want to say thank you for coming out. She has been truly blessed. To hear and to read the things that I read on Facebook about her, I was wondering if I was ever even really related to her, because the love that you people have shown has been insurmountable and incredible,” said Brathway. “And on behalf of my family, I thank you and we love you and we hope that her legacy will live on, because now she’s not operating from downtown. … She’s now calling you from another office and it won’t be her voice that you hear, but you will feel it in your heart and your spirit and your soul and it will wrack your brains trying to figure out why God took her away. … She has been called to glory and we’re going to rejoice in her memory.”