ONEONTA – Sandra (Sandy) Herzig passed away peacefully, at the age of 97, on August 26, 2021 in Essex, Vt. Born on July 31, 1924 in New York City, Sandy grew up living with her parents Theodore and Gracia Levy and her siblings Jean, Victor and Murray in the tenements of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Both Theodore and Gracia had emigrated to this country as teenagers from the land now known as North Macedonia. As Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors had fled the Spanish Inquisition, Sandy grew up in a family whose primary language was Ladino — a dialect of Spanish influenced by a Turkish environment.
Proud of her Sephardic heritage, Sandy loved to cook traditional meals including such favorites as borekas (spinach and feta in phyllo dough), baklava and more.
Sandy married the love of her life, Herman (Hy) Herzig, on June 28, 1947. Hy made up for what he lacked in formal education with a boundless entrepreneurial spirit. Sandy and Hy, along with their children, Gary and Robin, crisscrossed the country numerous times in search of the American dream of creating their own successful business. Sandy’s life, however, changed forever in 1967 when Hy died of a sudden heart attack. Returning to the workforce as a single mom, living paycheck to paycheck, Sandy dedicated herself to ensuring the well-being of her two children. While never shy about expressing an opposing opinion, her greatest gift to her children was her constant and unconditional love.
Her greatest legacy, however, will be the impact she has had on her grandchildren — Sasha Herzig of Troy, N.Y.; Hannah Grace Stender of Essex, Vt.; Aidan Grace of London, England; and Sophie Grace Laning of Providence, R.I. Weekends with grandma would always include waking up early for a place on the discount ticket line for a Broadway play. With limitless love, she made sure to instill in each of them, the confidence to be true to themselves. Her enduring message was to never allow anyone to tell them what they couldn’t do or whom they should be.
In 2009, Sandy moved to Burlington, Vt. to be closer to family. Leaving New York City, which she loved dearly, was not easy. Views of mountains and cows could not compete with sidewalks full of people and she greatly missed the energy, clamor, and diversity of New York. Sandy never hesitated to speak her mind in defense of the rights of all people and having had to return to work in the days before there were any protections from sexual harassment, she was particularly passionate about the rights of women. She would often make her feelings of concern known regarding recent events of discrimination, sexism or bigotry in our country. Recently, she asked her son, Gary, now the mayor of Oneonta, N.Y., if people followed his lead. When Gary replied that there was no shortage of people who disagreed with him, Sandy said, “Good. This is America.” One of her proudest moments was, at age 89, accompanying her granddaughter Hannah to a rally for President Barack Obama. As luck would have it, the President stopped to talk with her on his way out. Charmed, the President gave her a kiss on the cheek — something she would never forget.
Whenever asked, Sandy would say that she attributed her long life and good health to “doing whatever she damn well pleased.” Apparently, eating the foods she liked, smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for 40 years, and passionately avoiding any type of exercise all agreed with her. When someone in the family would go out for a run, she would invariably ask, “Who’s chasing you?”
Sandy is survived by her son Gary Herzig, of Oneonta, N.Y., and his wife Connie; daughter Robin Herzig Grace, of Fairfax, Vt., and her husband Thomas; along with grandchildren Hannah (Craig), Aidan (Rose), Sasha and Sophie (Jeffrey). She was recently blessed with great grandchildren Ava and Cameron. She is also survived by her nephews Irwin Seltzer (Allison), Terry Seltzer (Doryce), Mitchell Cohen (Morissa), and Todd Levy (Kimberly); and niece Debbie Macchia (Jerry). She leaves behind great nieces and nephews, Brad Seltzer (Julie), Janna Seltzer, Larry Seltzer (Naomi), Jeffrey Seltzer (Melissa), Seth Cohen (Joanna), Noah Cohen (Rebecca) and Raphael Cohen (Jessica), along with all their children.
Sandy was predeceased by her parents, siblings, and lifelong friend Sunny Adatto.
Sandy will be laid to rest beside her husband Hy at Wellwood Cemetery in West Babylon, N.Y. on Thursday, September 2. She will be greatly missed by her family and all those who knew her and loved her.