Sandy Starr: Feb. 15, 1941-Aug. 4, 2017

Sandy Starr, founder of Children’s House

Sandra (Sandy) Starr, aged 76, died on August 4, 2017 in Spokane Washington where she had been living for 11 years.

Sandy was born in Philadelphia on February 15, 1941. When she was 13, she moved to the west coast with her family and was raised in Santa Ana, CA. Sandy attended Orange Coast College, where she met Tom Starr and they married in 1962. They had two children, Craig born in 1963 and Amy born in 1966.

Sandy and Tom came to Orcas Island on Labor Day weekend in 1971 and lived in a small cabin in Deer Harbor. Tom and Sandy separated soon after arriving on Orcas.

In the fall of 1972, Sandy founded a preschool in Eastsound, and named the school Children’s House. The program that Sandy developed was an early learning environment filled with play, positive interaction, and a focus on emotional development. As soon as the children were settled in for the day, everyone sat on the floor and talked through a morning sharing circle.

During the first few years, the school was located in an old farm house owned by Bill Langell near Island Market. After that year, the school moved to various locations in the Eastsound area, including Camp Orkila and a house on North Beach. In 1977, Sandy obtained non-profit status for the school and moved Children’s House into the Lavender’s Farm location, where the school exists today. Sandy believed that a homey environment was an essential part of early learning and loved the warm feel of the farmhouse.

From 1977-1984 Sandy taught in the elementary grades at Orcas Island School. Sandy moved to Newport Beach, CA in 1984 and taught at the Monte Vista Elementary school in Santa Ana. Her pupils were children from South America, who lived in the nearby barrios. In typical Sandy fashion, many weekends she brought some of her children home for the weekend. Sandy retired from teaching in 2004 and had time to pursue some of her lifelong passions: traveling the world, tending flowers in her garden and rescuing cats and dogs.

Sandy is survived by son Craig Starr (Marianne) of San Juan Island and daughter Amy Starr (Susan) of Spokane and grandson Aaron Starr of Spokane.

The legacy of Sandy’s vision lives on in Children’s House. In the past 45 years, many children on Orcas have attended the school and been nurtured in the positive environment inspired by Sandy. Sandy imagined a place where young children could develop more fully at play in a safe and inspirational way. As a result, Children’s House has had an impact on the entire community of Orcas.

Friends of Sandy, alumni and parents of Children’s House, who would like to honor Sandy, may make a donation in her name to Children’s House. Money will be used for a variety of needs, from parent and staff enrichment to the Lavender Farm restoration. Contributions can be by check to Children’s House at 36 Pea Patch Lane, Eastsound, WA 98245 or received online at

(Obituary provided by Becky Burns)

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