FRANKFORT — Peter Roy Sandman, 64, of Frankfort, passed away March 30, 2013, at Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital. Pete was born on Aug. 26, 1948, in Las Cruces, N.M., to Roy Lee and Olga Elizabeth (Peterson) Sandman.
In the early ‘50s, his family briefly moved to Coos Bay, Ore., before returning to Las Cruces. Following the death of his father in 1952 the family moved to Frankfort, where his mother grew up after her parents had come over from Norway in the early 1900s.
He followed his mother, a school teacher, between Corunna and Cadillac during elementary school. However, he’d return to Frankfort every summer, which created a lot of memories of sandlot baseball for him. He moved back to Frankfort permanently for high school.
Pete, a 1966 graduate of Frankfort High School, started his career in journalism in 1963 for the Patriot. Journalism came second nature to him as first cousins Paul Peterson, who was the managing editor of the Ludington Daily News for decades, John Peterson, who was the Detroit News bureau chief in Washington and Frank LaRue, who wrote for a number of dailies and weeklies in Michigan, all influenced the young wordsmith.
After high school he won numerous awards including as a sports writer at Central Michigan University (the only one to win three Michigan Collegiate Press Association sports writing certificates in consecutive years, multiple Michigan Press Association awards, the Citizens Savings Athletic Foundation medallion for his “noteworthy contributions” to the sport of soaring through his writings and later was the only American in 1993 to receive the National Soaring Museum Board of Trustees Certificate of Appreciation, among his many other journalistic and civic accomplishments.
During his college days he spent a couple semesters at Mid Michigan Community College, where he served as the college’s first sports information director. He also played on the baseball team and even got in one basketball game. Pete occasionally boasted about his college athletic career.
He was sports editor of a weekly newspaper in Alma as a sophomore in college, where he learned under the great publisher, Martin Heim. He was on the Record-Patriot staff, which in 1981 put out a 104-page newspaper one week. He methodically, as early as the 1970s, began recording Frankfort sports records and saving Panther memorabilia.
He was a top student/athlete at Frankfort High, and because of that background in academics and athletics has always been a booster of the school, though not without controversy. He made sure readers knew what the issues were and how he felt about them.
He will be known for his carefully crafted first paragraph, something he learned in the journalism department at Central Michigan that grabbed the reader into the story.
Although he was born about 50 miles from the Mexican border and she was born a few miles from the Canadian border in the Soo, he met the love of his life, Cynthia Stiles. The two were married in 1978. They had two kids, Jennifer and Jeffery, both of whom Pete became their biggest fan.
Pete also was involved extensively in the community. He coached summer baseball for four decades, was junior high football coach for a dozen years and also coached high school teams at both Frankfort and Bear Lake.
Having grown up without a father, Pete’s mission in life was to give love, guidance and friendship to any child who crossed his path. He did this through his coaching, officiating and running Pete & Jeff’s Collectibles, where he met a number of new people who fell in love with him and where old friends would swing by to reminisce about sandlot baseball, high school football, the history of Frankfort and much more.
He was the longtime groundskeeper at the beautiful Mitchell Marina and for a period of time was the groundskeeper at Lockhart Field, a place dear to his heart.
He was on the city council when they went ahead with a couple of bold projects in the 1990s, including a major water and sewer overhaul and a complete renovation of Main Street.
Pete served as president of the library board for four years when they built the new library and helped hire the present staff of Cathy Carter, Cindy Collier and Julie Morris.
He also was a Michigan High School Athletic Association registered official in many sports for 32 years and for three years ran the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development office.
History was always his forte, though, and he had a number of books and booklets to his credit. He believed that he was one of the few young people around the area as he was growing up who actually listened to the old-timers tell their stories, and he became intrigued with them.
His grandparents came to Frankfort from Norway in the late 1890s.
Pete always had several projects going on. One of his longest efforts was to investigate the 1952 murder of his father. After decades of research he released his findings in the book “Murder Near the Crosses.”
He also spent a great deal of time trying to get Roger “Doc” Cramer, who befriended him, into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His effort allowed him to interview many of his childhood baseball heroes.
He maintained his old school journalistic style and when covering a story, he was only interested in the truth. When he was conducting an interview, he always repeated things to make sure he got the facts straight.
It was nothing for him to call back the interviewee after he wrote the story to make sure the story was accurate. He always did his homework before he interviewed someone and always came up with the right questions.
He prided himself on covering controversial issues and especially when both sides would call him up and tell him how good his story was.
He also enjoyed spending time with friends at the American Legion, the Eagles Lodge, Mike’s Pastry Shoppe and Baker’s Bar.
In his final years his greatest enjoyment came from playing with his pride and joys, granddaughters Olivia and Ava. His eyes would light up whenever he talked about them, which was quite often.
Pete is survived by his wife, Cynthia (Stiles); daughter, Jennifer (Casey) Johnson; son, Jeffery (Kelly) Sandman; brother, Paul Sandman; sister, Sharon Thurber (George) Johnson; granddaughters, Olivia and Ava Johnson; father-in-law, Paul (Loraine) Stiles; and numerous family members, friends and the Benzie County community.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Roy and Olga (Peterson) Sandman; brothers, Thomas and Eric Thurber; and mother-in-law, Erna Stiles.
A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Frankfort, with a celebration of life to follow at the American Legion.
Donations to a scholarship fund can be made in lieu of flowers.
Arrangements are being made by Jowett Family Funeral Home of Frankfort