Mrs. Sandberg Goes to Heaven

January 5, 2023

We got the news the way we usually do these days.

Marlene saw it on the internet (Facebook–where else?). She told me that Jessie Sandberg had died. Back in the day, she was a greatly loved faculty member at Tennessee Temple College (later University) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. By the time she arrived at the college in the early seventies, the students knew about her because she was one of the daughters of John R. Rice, famed Baptist evangelist and founder of the Sword of the Lord newspaper.

Mrs. Sandberg taught English Lit at the college, and her husband Don led the Weigle Singers, meaning they were both well-known and well-loved in the college community.

She was in her early 90s and had suffered a bad fall, and her husband had died several years ago, so the news was not unexpected.

But it hit me hard, which surprised me a bit since I don’t think we’ve seen Mrs. Sandberg since Marlene and I graduated from the college in 1974. Yet when I check the Keep Believing website, I find that I’ve mentioned her over the years more times than any other college professor.

I found a sermon from 1992 that contains a story that perhaps explains my reaction to her passing. I’m going to post it here with a few minor edits:

Many years ago Marlene and I were students in college together in Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of our favorite teachers was Jessie Sandberg. We both took British Literature from her. After all these years, I don’t remember anything she taught us about British Literature, but I remember her vividly.

Mrs. Sandberg was one of those teachers who was great in the classroom and even greater out of the classroom. We’ve all had teachers like that—the kind of teacher you wanted to be around because they were such wonderful people.

We both knew her well. During the time we were engaged, Marlene went to her several times for advice. After graduation, we got married, moved to Texas, and lost contact with her.

few years later she sent us a Christmas card with a 3 by 5 card enclosed. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. At the top, the card said, “Ray and Marlene Pritchard—Dallas, Texas.” Underneath she had written in various dates: 1/5, 1/8, 1/15, 1/29, 2/4, 2/11, 2/22, 3/4, 3/8, and so on. There must have been nearly 80 dates on the card. But there was no explanation. Then we read the Christmas card. It said, “Every time I prayed for you this year, I wrote the date on the card.” She mailed it to us so we would know that she had faithfully prayed for us that year.

The lesson is simple: If you love someone, you’ll pray for them. If you don’t love them, you’ll stop praying eventually. When you pray, one of two things will happen: You will either start loving or you will stop praying.

When someone prays for you like that, you never forget it.

I found her picture in the 1973 Chimes, the Tennessee Temple yearbook. It’s exactly how I remember her.

She is reunited with her husband, and they are together forever in the presence of the Lord.

The battle is over, the victory won.

Rest well, Mrs. Sandberg. We will see you again.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?