Our magnificent mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Sandra Renée Merrill Covey, passed away peacefully at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah, and returned home to a loving Heavenly Father on Sunday, January 12, 2020. She was 83 years old. In her final hours, she was surrounded by all nine of her children and their spouses, which was a tender mercy of the Lord. Our father, Stephen, preceded her in death by seven years, and their reunion must have been grand. Sandra was the daughter of Marriner Hendricks Merrill and Erika Bienert Merrill and was born on September 23, 1936, the third of six children. She was raised in a loving home in Salt Lake City and graduated with the first graduating class of Olympus High School in 1954, where she served as Student Body cheerleader and was active in music and dramatics.
At 17, Sandra was the youngest member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. While on her 1955 European Tour, she met our father, Stephen Richards Covey. He had just finished his mission in Great Britain. She heard Stephen preaching on a soap box in Hyde Park in London, and a voice told her, “This is the man you are going to marry.” She attended the University of Utah for two years, then married in August of 1956.
While Stephen did his graduate work at Harvard Business School, their daughter Cynthia was born. Stephen then began teaching at Brigham Young University and Sandra continued her education at BYU, receiving the Outstanding Graduate Award from the College of Child Development and Family Relations. She was happily involved with her family and being a bishop’s wife when her husband was called to be the first Irish Mission President in early 1962. They were young-she was 25 and he was 29. By this time, they had three children, and their fourth, Michael Sean, was born in Ireland. They had over 400 wonderful missionaries, whom they loved and with whom they continued to have a close association for 55 years. Following their mission, Sandra and Stephen returned to Provo where their family grew and prospered.
They then spent an enchanting year living in Laie, Hawaii, from 1969-1970, while Stephen wrote books: Spiritual Roots of Human Relations and How to Succeed with People.
Sandra was greatly blessed in her desire to serve the Lord in church, civic, and community affairs. She worked with the Symphony Guild, served as chairman of the Utah Valley Symphony Ball and as chairman of the committees for the Utah County Republicans, and was involved with BYU Women and several PTA boards. She enjoyed teaching classes at BYU Education Week and teaching and training adult education groups. She served for several years on the Utah Opera Board and was active in political elections, serving as the state delegate to the Republican Convention. Music was an important part of her life, and she enjoyed being a soprano soloist in many operettas, musicals, and other performances. Her voice was rich and resounding. Some of the favorite songs she loved to sing were: “O, That I Were An Angel,” “O, Divine Redeemer,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Look to the Rainbow,” “The Holy City,” “Love Changes Everything,” “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked,” and “My Cup Runneth Over.” Sandra loved the arts and served on the Provo Arts Council. She worked vigorously for an entire decade to help create an arts center in her hometown of Provo and felt deeply fulfilled when The Covey Center For the Arts was established in 2007 and named after her.
Most of her married life Sandra lived in Provo, in the beautiful Oak Hills and Indian Hills areas, overlooking the valley, lake, and temple. She had a wonderful life there, enjoying close friends, ward members, neighbors, and the children playing at Uncle Bud’s Park across from her house.
Sandra decorated her house for every birthday and holiday. On Halloween she always served hot cider, root beer, and donuts, and made everyone sing, dance, or perform a talent when they came to trick-or-treat. On St. Patrick’s Day she dressed up in green with a tall Irish hat and took green Shamrock cookies to all the children’s classes and embarrassed them by singing Irish songs and talking with a brogue. All her children know “Toora Loora Loora,” “Look to the Rainbow,” “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” and other Irish tunes. Sandra and Stephen loved having their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren gather together frequently to build memories. Sandra was a memory maker.
Sandra had a wonderful sense of humor. Recently, at a family gathering, one of her grandsons accidentally knocked over her oxygen tank. Everyone looked at her to see how she would respond. As if on cue, she made a terrible dying noise, shut her eyes, and cranked her head sideways as if she were dead.
Sandra and Stephen always loved one another dearly and enjoyed nearly 56 years of marriage on earth. From the first time they set eyes on each other until their recent reunion in heaven their romance flourished. They were best friends and appreciated and valued their differences.
Sandra took great joy in the fact that all nine of her children were married to wonderful partners and sealed in the holy temple and that they married faithful and caring people with strong roots and testimonies of the gospel. At this writing, Sandra and Stephen have nine children, 55 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren, with three great-grandchildren on the way.
In the last twelve years Sandra endured many physical trials and surgeries that left her in a wheelchair. Every time she would pull out of an impossible medical situation, her family and friends would proclaim that she had “nine lives” and as time passed and she survived more incidents, people began to wonder if she had 99 lives. The electric wheelchair did not slow her down one bit and her social calendar could rival any teenager’s. Sandra had a healthy mindset and her memory, wit, and sense of humor were sharp and alive.
Sandra was a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints her entire life and was given every opportunity to serve the Lord and bear her witness to the truthfulness and beauty of the gospel. She served as Ward Relief Society President, Stake Relief Society President, Stake Young Women’s President at BYU, Relief Society teacher, and in many other callings.
She loved her family and spent most of her life enjoying and serving them. Her parties were legendary; in fact, she had a party planned the week she passed away. It was her Twelfth Night party, giving people something to look forward to after Christmas was over and the decorations were down. Her patriotism was unmatched-she loved America and the flag, knew her American history, and never took her freedom for granted. She had countless numbers of friends, because she valued friendships, was social and loyal, and was always looking forward to her book club, Etienne group, ladies’ luncheons, and fireside group.
Sandra loved Door Dash, black licorice, Fox News, the Hallmark Channel, BYU sporting events, See’s suckers, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, a good Snicker’s bar, and Diet Coke. She rejoiced the day an Angel Moroni was put on top of the Provo Temple. She enjoyed time every year at Sundance and in Montana, being in the mountains and at the beach, and connecting with nature and her family. She valued education and was so appreciative of her children’s teachers, carefully choosing Christmas and end-of-school presents for them and asking them if they’d prefer a “practical” or an “elegant” gift. Hundreds sought Sandra’s counsel over the years-not just her children but many in her community--because she was wise, practical, compassionate, and bold. As one friend recently shared, “She was a monumental influence at a pivotal time in my life. . . Her example and influence have always been with me.”
We express deep gratitude for the team at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and the University of Utah Hospital. Sandra’s nurses and doctors were top-notch and extended her life on many occasions. She was also grateful for her personal doctor, Matthew Brown, and physical therapist, Paul Sagers. We extend our deepest appreciation for the multitude of personal nurses who so conscientiously attended her for almost 12 years. They cared for her daily with incredible love and devotion and became some of her dearest friends.
Sandra is survived by her nine children and their spouses: Cynthia (Kameron) Haller, Maria (David) Cole, Stephen M.R. (Jerolyn) Covey, Sean (Rebecca) Covey, David (Pamelyn) Covey, Catherine (Paul) Sagers, Colleen (Matthew) Brown, Jenny (Jason) Pitt, Joshua (Jenny) Covey; her siblings: Darleen (Ken) Dailey, Lynn (Phyllis) Merrill, Toni (Roger) Davis. Funeral services will be held at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, January 18, 2020, at the Oak Hills Stake Center located at 925 E. North Temple Drive, Provo, Utah (across the street from the Provo Temple). A viewing will be held on Friday, January 17, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the same location, and on Saturday, January 18, from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. prior to services. Condolences may be entered on her obituary at www.wasatchlawn.com.