In Remembrance: Sandy (Sanz) Karlson Alton, May 14, 1941 – July 11, 2023

Sandy (Sanz) Karlson Alton

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

Sandy (Sanz) Alton passed away after an extended illness at Via Elegante where she was a resident for 10 months. She was 82 years old and is survived by her husband of 60 years, John, sons James and John Stuart, daughter Betsy, and eight grandchildren.

Sandy and John were married in 1963 when John was taking his training at the U.S. Marine Corps Officer’s School in Quantico, Va. When John was shipped overseas, Sandy taught special needs children in Beaufort, S.C., and also served as a Red Cross nurse in Quantico.

Sandy was a remarkable woman who loved to travel, read, and converse with people, as well as keep up with finances and investing. She received her undergraduate degree in 1963 with a double-major in economics and history from Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisc., and, as well, she was Phi Beta Kappa.

She achieved three advanced degrees: a master’s degree in childhood psychology, an M.B.A. in finance and accounting, and a master’s degree in banking.

Initially, Sandy taught school in Western Springs, Ill., before pursuing a career in banking. She began as an assistant to the president of a local bank and eventually became the senior vice president of the bank holding company, which was formed as the bank expanded and purchased other local banks. During this time, Sandy obtained her third master’s degree in banking and had an office on the top floor of the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. Sandy held the senior vice president position for 12 years.

In 1980 Sandy was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic and incurable eye disease that affects the retina. The disease causes the cells in the retina to break down, and over time, a loss of vision occurs. The disease took 30 years before taking her sight totally in 2010.

Sandy was always a very patient person—with children and with life in general. The latter probably helped her to accept her eventual blindness.

But despite her loss of sight, Sandy continued to take interest in finances, private investing, and keeping up on local, national, and international affairs. In fact, John would read The Wall Street Journal to her daily.

There are many words with which to describe Sandy, but the top four are intelligent, patient, sweet, and selfless. One of the highlights of her life were her eight grandchildren who were so important to her.

Sandy will be missed by all who knew and loved her.