Sandra L. Zellar

Published 12:35 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Sandra L. Zellar

Sandra Lee (Bragg) Zellar passed away peacefully on October 24, 2021 at The Cedars in Austin. She was born January 13, 1940 in Sterling, Illinois, where she began her long and distinguished career as a homecoming queen, cheerleader, impresario, actress, artist, dancer, ringmaster, and humanitarian.

Along with her mother Frances and beloved siblings Pat, Judy, and Dan, Sandy formed a legendary troupe of inspired storytellers and comedians whose impromptu routines were one of the many highlights of our childhoods. To hear the Bragg family laugh together–howling, breathless, utterly inimitable—was one of life’s great pleasures and privileges.

Sandy and Dean Zellar were married on June 25, 1959 in Sterling, where they started their family. After a brief stop in Dubuque, Iowa they found a home in Austin, the place that became home for the rest of their lives. They loved Austin, threw themselves into the community, raised four children, and made many, many devoted lifelong friends.

Through thick and thin, Sandy was fiercely devoted to her family and friends, but she had a special gift with children and loved all kids indiscriminately. She never condescended, didn’t suffer fools, was loyal to a fault, and refused to let anyone push her, or her children, around. God help the bully, neighbor, or teacher who crossed one of her kids. She was a world-class choreographer of chaos and taught us that we could be anything or anyone. Our house was a place of make-believe, the original Magic Kingdom. When we were kids, operating out of our home, yard, or garage, she ran at various times a de facto theater, art studio, library, science lab, costume shop, natural history museum, carnival, haunted house, and Gold Rush boomtown. All of these enterprises ran exclusively on child labor, and often in violation of all sorts of zoning laws and housing codes. In her later years, Sandy lavished her love and creativity on her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Sandy loved and created many special occasions, but she was especially crazy about holidays and her observances of these occasions were legendary. She never did anything halfway. She was beautiful, classy, proud, compassionate, fierce and tender in equal measure; wildly creative and wickedly funny, she made all sorts of magical things happen.

She was also a high-wire walker and a juggler, and endured many challenges and too much hardship and heartache. Our battered and often foundering family scow should have been capsized or dashed on the rocks a thousand times, yet somehow, she and our dad kept their little ship afloat.

She was proud, funny, and stylish to the end (even receiving the Most Fashionable Award at The Cedars). She was our Jackie Kennedy, our Maria Von Trapp, our Carol Burnett.

Mom was a magician, and it’s been the ongoing challenge of our lives to recreate that magic in something so mundane as the real world. We loved her madly, will miss her terribly, and wish she could have had so much more time with us.

She was preceded in death by husband Dean, parents Cecil and Frances Bragg, and sister Pat. She is survived by children Nel Zellar, Brad Zellar (Kate McGuire), Martin Zellar (Carolyn Beaudot), and Elizabeth Zellar-Byers (Sean Byers); grandchildren Samantha, Jamie, Conner, Abigail, Grace, Marni, Wilson, Owen, Finian and Clementine; great-grandchildren; and siblings Judy (Jeff) Wright and Dan (Cindy) Bragg.

Due to public health concerns, the family will have a private celebration of her life. Memorials preferred to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund or Mayo Clinic Hospice-Austin. Clasen-Jordan Mortuary is assisting with arrangements.