Squaw Valley matriarch leaves legacy of history, family
Sitting amid dozens of black-and-white photos depicting the Squaw Valley of old, Eric and Glen Poulsen reminisced about their mother, Gladys “Sandy” Poulsen, and her days as a regional pioneer.
Described as busy, hardworking and a good mother, Sandy died peacefully in her Squaw Valley home Sept. 2 after battling ovarian cancer. She celebrated her 89th birthday with her family last month.
She left behind a large family legacy, including the eight children she raised at a home she built with her husband, Wayne, who died in 1996. She also had 18 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“She was just a wonderful person ” a true pioneer of the area here. She had a long, fascinating life,” said Eric Poulsen.
“She ran everything here ” she developed the subdivisions, she was running a ski hill …,” he continued.
Glen Poulsen offered more.
“She was a ranch boss, she was the postmistress, she drove the school bus ” she wore many hats,” he said.
Sandy Poulsen grew up a New York debutante and was whisked away to Squaw Valley with her husband in the early 1940s.
The couple started their lives together in Squaw Valley living in a tent and bathing in the natural waters of Shirley Canyon, her sons recalled.
“Once she got a taste of the West, she never went back,” Glen Poulsen said.
In 1943 Wayne Poulsen purchased nearly 700 acres in Squaw Valley from Southern Pacific. He partnered with Alex Cushing and founded the Squaw Valley Development Corp., breaking ground for a ski resort a few years later. After a fallout with Cushing, the Poulsens had the foresight to purchase the rest of the valley and start a real estate business. The Poulsen Family was the driving force in the valley’s development.
Sandy Poulsen was also very involved with Squaw Valley Chapel. The Poulsens had donated the land for the church.
“She really enjoyed her time there. And social events there,” Eric Poulsen said.
Longtime family friend H.H. Hunter remembers Sandy Poulsen fondly, but said it was hard to describe what a great woman she was.
“She was just Sandy. That’s a statement in itself,” Hunter said.
Following a private funeral, a public memorial service will be held at the Resort at Squaw at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations may be given to Squaw Valley Chapel.
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