Former Board of Selectmen chairman; renowned coach, humanitarian

Published January 17, 2019

NORTH READING — Benjamin F. Sands, Jr., 85, a longtime resident of North Reading, passed away Thursday, January 10, 2019 after a brief illness.

Known as Grandpa Ben, Dad and Benny, he was the glue that held his family and friends together. His support, love and kindness extended beyond his five children, their spouses and his grandchildren to his longtime friends, new friends and total strangers. Ben was a standout coach, volunteer, fundraiser, alumnus and community member, all the while humble and humorous. He had a remarkable ability to befriend anyone and to bring people together. He built and maintained lifelong friendships including those with his high school classmates, fellow Marines, fraternity brothers, church community, and fellow North Reading residents.

Ben graduated from Reading High School in 1950 and was NROTC at Tufts, where he graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1954. More significantly, at Tufts he met the love of his life and wife of 64 years, Judith L. Lundegren. They were married in 1954, moved to Virginia and California for Ben’s service in the U.S. Marines, then settled in North Reading in 1957 to raise their five children. Ben and Judy’s most treasured retreat was their cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee, which hosted a mix of friends and family all summer long. Ben was known for initiating large card games, teaching everyone to water ski, organizing huge family dinners, and captaining boat rides. Lovers of nature, Ben and Judy donated 92 acres of land in Marlow, New Hampshire to the Monadnock Conservancy in 2013.

In North Reading, Ben was an active community member in both town government and youth sports. He served as Selectman, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, and Chairman of the Housing Authority. In the 1960s, he led the initiative for what would become North Reading Youth Hockey. He was a youth hockey coach until 1977 when he took over the North Reading High School team, taking them to the state finals at the Boston Garden in 1978.

A loyal Tufts Jumbo, Ben coached his alma mater’s club hockey team, and brought it to varsity status. He coached from 1986 – 1992 and was named ECAC Division III Coach of the Year in 1988. His dedication to Tufts continued, serving as President of the Jumbo Club (2000-2002), Class Reunion Committee Chair, and Vice President of the Alumni Association. In 2001, Ben founded Friends of Tufts Hockey to protect the varsity status of the hockey team. Ben stayed involved in Tufts Hockey by scouting at local rinks and heading up fundraising efforts. Tufts awarded Ben its Distinguished Service Award in 2001. The Tufts hockey team further honored him in 2009, naming the Tufts hockey locker room for him. In 2018 at the Tufts Hall of Fame ceremony, Ben was awarded the first Tufts Brown and Blue award in recognition of his significant contributions to Tufts’ Athletics.

Ben was not only a dedicated coach, but an accomplished athlete himself. After his college hockey days as a defenseman at Tufts, he played squash and was a ranked tennis player. Ben was an early enthusiast of triathlons in the 1980s before moving on to rowing, then competed for over 10 years in the Ernestine Bayer event during the Head of the Charles. He continued to row in the waters around Melvin Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee throughout his life.

Ben was also a devoted humanitarian. A member of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Reading since 1957, Ben served in a variety of roles including Senior Warden and Church Clerk. Ben was always ready to help, whether it was tidying up for an upcoming wedding, visiting church members or spearheading a fundraising activity. For 13 years, Ben and Judy’s main humanitarian focus was in Guatemala. They raised money and collected toys, then traveled there each year to deliver them to impoverished children.

In addition to his wife Judy, Ben leaves his children Thyra Sherman and her husband Andy of Andover, Biff (Benjamin) Sands and his wife Brenda of Chester, N.H., Douglas Sands and his wife Marie of Manchester, N.H., Carey (CB) Sands-Bohrer and her husband Tom of Concord, Mass., and Kim Chabot and her husband Mark of Suwanee, Georgia. He also leaves 12 grandchildren: Jay, Brad and Liz Sherman; Benjamin Sands and Taylor Sands-Marcinkowski; Russell, Kevin, Eric and Brian Sands; and Sally, Sabrina and Si Bohrer; as well as two step-grandchildren, Nick and Amanda Chabot. He also leaves his brother, Loring B. Sands, and many nieces and nephews.

Visiting hours will be held on Friday, January 18 from 3-7 p.m., with services on Saturday at 10 a.m. Both visiting hours and the service will be held at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 95 Woburn Street in Reading. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Vamos Adelante, a nonprofit serving indigenous families in rural in Guatemala. Checks can be sent to: Vamos Adelante, 41 W. 655 Main St. Road, Elburn, Illinois, 60119. Arrangements are under the direction of the Croswell Funeral Home, 19 Bow Street, North Reading.