Eleanor “Sandy” Torrey West

Ossabaw Island Foundation celebrates the life and legacy of Eleanor “Sandy” Torrey West


Updated January 19, 2022 at 4:29 p.m.


The pre-recorded program will be available online at 7:00pm Thursday January 20 via the group's YouTube channel HERE and on Facebook Live via the Ossabaw Island Lovers Group.


The Ossabaw Island Foundation will be hosting the 2022 Virtual Ossabaw Night in Savannah on Thursday, Jan. 20. “What We Learned from Sandy: Reflections on the life and legacy of Eleanor “Sandy” Torrey West, 1913-2021” is the purpose and theme of the event.

“We are disappointed we aren’t able to meet in person to honor Sandy because of Covid, but switching to virtual is what we had to do to go forward,” said Elizabeth DuBose, Executive Director of the Ossabaw Island Foundation. 

Eleanor “Sandy” Torrey West, known as the Matriarch of Ossabaw Island, is Ossabaw Island’s best-known and longest resident. Born in 1913 West first set foot on Ossabaw Island at age 11 in 1924 and from 1987 to May 1, 2016, she lived on the island full time. 

West passed away on Jan. 17, 2021, her 108th.

“How poetic that she would pass on her birthday. It is hard to imagine that the death of someone at age 108 is surprising, but we were in shock over the loss of our visionary and friend,” said DuBose.

West’s love of the island began in her childhood, shortly after her parents, Henry and Nell Torrey of Detroit, Michigan, purchased Ossabaw Island in 1924 as their winter retreat. 

West transformed Ossabaw into an intellectual and artistic space after inheriting it in 1960, spending much of her wealth supporting retreats for artists, writers and scientists.

Property taxes threatened her long-term ownership of the island, rather than sell Ossabaw for private development, the Torreys and the Wests sought to assure that the island would remain in the unspoiled condition that they valued and had worked to preserve for nearly half a century.

After years of negotiations the family sold Ossabaw Island to the state in 1978, at 50% percent of its estimated market value. The sale specified that Ossabaw Island be acknowledged as Georgia’s first heritage preserve, set aside for scientific, educational, and cultural uses only.

Hundreds of people would come to Ossabaw Island to explore and enjoy programing funded by the Ossabaw Foundation. 

West became a strong conservationist for coastal Georgia. She wanted to share her special place with others and wanted Ossabaw’s visitors to be transformed by the island. 

It is this legacy that they are celebrating on Jan. 20. 

“A year later after her passing we thought it would be appropriate to invite some of Sandy’s family and friends who knew her over the years to come and speak and just share what they learned from Sandy West and how they were called to action to continue her vision,” said DuBose. “It’s going to be a reflection of her life and her legacy and just what lessons we can take away from Sandy.”

The virtual event will feature three speakers and a film called “Island Vision” that was created by a friend of West who has known her over the years. 

The film explores West’s vision for the island and how the foundation hope to continue it.

“This film is a great way to honor Sandy and talk about the future. She intended for Ossabaw to continue to inspire people,” Dubose said.

The virtual event is on Thursday, Jan. 20 and can be viewed on the Ossabaw Island Foundation Youtube Channel or Ossabaw Island Lovers Facebook Page. 

For more information visit ossabawisland.org

Published January 19, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.


Kareem McMichael

Kareem McMichael is a filmmaker, documentarian, writer, and multimedia content creator. The Macon native enjoys entertainment, and sharing with locals and visitors’ stories about Savannah’s art and culture scene. When he is not working, he enjoys relaxing at the beach, grabbing a beverage, hitting a fun art event,...
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