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What Would We Do Without Sandy?

Sandy2

It was just another Tuesday during Rick Mirer’s rookie season and the Seahawks’ quarterback was about to wade into a tedious task on the players’ off day: Going through his voluminous fan mail.

As he entered the conference room at the team’s headquarters — then located in a remote corner of Northwest University in Kirkland — what Mirer discovered was not another mound of mail, but boxes filled with correspondence that had been sorted by categories. There was one for fans seeking an autograph. There was another for fans who had sent trading cards they wanted signed. Yet another contained requests for appearances or auction items. There was even one that featured marriage proposals for the cute and charismatic QB.

This abundance of organization stopped Mirer in his tracks. Then, using his best at-the-line audible voice, he offered, “What would we do without Sandy?”

Just in case Sandy Gregory had not heard him from an adjacent room, Mirer repeated with even more vibrato, “What would we do without Sandy?

The entire franchise and its 12s fan base is about to find out, because Gregory, the last of the Seahawks’ original employees from its expansion season of 1976, is retiring Friday after 42 years of service well above and well beyond what anyone could have expected when she was hired six months before the team would play its first game.

Gregory was not a player or a coach. As much as she grew to love the fledging franchise, she wasn’t even a fan. But she impacted each of these groups during a tenure that took Gregory from an administrative assistant position in the public relations department, to community service director, to senior director of legends, team history and special projects.

The anecdote involving Mirer took place in the fall of 1993, but the admiration and appreciation in which it was rooted already had played out on so many occasions in the franchise’s first 17 seasons and has been repeated countless times in the 25 seasons since.

No project was too large, or too small, to warrant Gregory’s labor-of-love attention. Same with the players and coaches. They quickly learned that if they needed something done, or help with an event, Gregory was the one to ask — unless she already had volunteered to help, which was often the case.

This was never more apparent than during the team’s annual salute to its former players. Alumni Weekend starts with a group gathering, and players push past former teammates to greet Gregory with a hug, smile and that echo of appreciation: What would we do without Sandy?

Jacob Green knows the feeling. When the franchise’s all-time sack leader and Ring of Honor defensive end started his annual golf tournament to raise funds for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Gregory was there to do whatever was needed. At each event, Green would begin by thanking those who had made it possible, and Gregory was always at the top of his appreciation list.

During a ceremony where a wing at Fred Hutch was named after Green, he cast a glance at Gregory through tear-filled eyes that said it all — again: “What would we do without Sandy?”

The kids whose Make-A-Wish desire was to visit the Seahawks and their favorite players — from Joey Galloway, to Marshawn Lynch, to Russell Wilson — also know the feeling, without really realizing the role Gregory played in making their special day extra special.

As Make-A-Wish representatives sighed on many occasions, “What would we do without Sandy?”

For someone whose fingerprints have been so indelible on so many aspects of the franchise for so many years, Gregory’s arrival into all things Seahawks did not foreshadow what was to follow.

“When I came, I was nervous,” Gregory, who had grown up in Southern California, told the Seattle Times in 2014. “All I knew about Seattle was that it rained all the time. Don told me, if you don’t like it, you can always go back. I decided to take the adventure.”

Don was Don Anderson, who Gregory had worked for when he was the Sports Information Director at the University of Southern California. She followed Anderson to the Southern California Sun when he took a job with the World Football League. When the expansion Seahawks hired Anderson to be their first public relations director, Gregory came along as part of a package deal that also included Gary Wright, another Southern California transplant who started as the No. 2 man in the PR department but worked his way into becoming the franchise’s first vice president.

That’s when Gregory began to cut her jack-of-all-trades teeth.

“We didn’t have community relations, we didn’t have HR (Human Resources), we didn’t have IT (Information Technology), we didn’t have marketing,” she told MyNorthwest.com in 2016.

No, but what they did have was Sandy Gregory.

“So it was a little bit of a combination of everything,” she explained. “I did cheerleaders. I ordered their boots and their pompoms and all that stuff back then. I booked the anthem (singers) and the halftimes and the color guards. So it was pretty neat. You just did a little of everything.”

Or in Gregory’s case, a lot of everything.

Memories? You bet. A favorite moment? That too. Gregory shared them with me in 2006.

Favorite memory: “When Steve Largent retired (in 1989). That was quite a day. A tough memory: Pete Gross (the team’s former radio play-by-play man) going into the Ring of Honor (in 1992, two days before he died). I was on the field, but I couldn’t even think about the ceremony because it would make me cry. It was a really touching, but tough, moment.”

Favorite moment: “I’ll never forget the trip back from Miami (after the playoff victory following the 1983 season). I remember Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’ jamming on the plane. It was awesome.”

Favorite man: “I can’t go there. There’s way too many of them. Way too many.”

Players and coaches came and went, but Gregory remained a rock in the sea of change — yes, a cornerstone employee who did so many things behind the scenes and never sought the limelight.

After Wright (2009) and director of video Thom Fermstad (2011) retired, the list of original employees became a group of one: Gregory.

Since I covered the Seahawks for 36 years, we discussed on several occasions when that group of one would become a group of none. She always told me, “You’ll know when you’re there.”

Sandy Gregory is finally there. After doing so much for so many for all these years, Gregory deserves our thanks and her well-earned free time.

Now, there’s only one thing left to say: “What will we do without Sandy?”

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