From the Office of Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
In sadness, we share the news that Mrs. Sandy Gladding, spouse of The Rev. Kim Gladding, died on Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Mrs. Sandy Gladding was born in 1955 and spent her early years on her family’s farm in northwest Missouri. As a young girl, she dreamed of becoming a doctor – but put that dream on hold when she married soon after high school and had her two daughters, Jaime and Sabrina, who soon became the center of her life. Her passion for medicine stayed alive, and after her first marriage ended, as a single mother of two young girls, she re-enrolled in medical school.
Sandy remained active in her church where she volunteered as a Sunday school teacher. It was at church that she met, a seminary student, Kim Gladding, who soon became the love of her life and husband of 35 years.
Sandy graduated from medical school in 1988 and was accepted to a general surgery residency in Grand Rapids, MI. She was the only female in her medical school graduating class to be accepted to a surgery residency and was the second woman to have gone through that residency program. Ever a trailblazer, she excelled as a resident and, in 1993, joined a private practice in Grand Rapids, MI. As a practicing surgeon, she led Blodgett Medical Center to obtain its trauma certification, received awards for her practical research on wound care, and established a reputation as a warm and caring physician who was a fierce advocate for her patients. Sandy knew everyone in the hospital by name – from food services to housekeeping to the CEO; each person knew she genuinely cared about them AND that she would hold them to the highest standards of care. Nurses responsible for the care of her patients said that while they trembled a little when Sandy would come to their floor – there was no other surgeon they would choose to care for them.
In 1998, Sandy and Kim moved to Phoenix, AZ when Sandy accepted a position with the Indian Health Service (IHS). Sandy served for 7 years in the IHS before transitioning back into private practice and becoming Chief of Surgery at Banner Estrella Medical Center. Once again, Sandy became known for her unique ability to listen and provide uncompromising care to her patients – in 2006 she was awarded the “Top Doc” award and in 2017, Banner renamed that very award in her honor. The “Dr. Sandy Gladding Associate’s Choice Top Doc Award” will continue to be given annually to a doctor who has been nominated by patients as deserving of this high honor.
Throughout her very demanding career, Sandy was an active partner to Kim in their service to The United Methodist Church. She had a strong faith and found joy in helping to run Sidewalk Sunday School, providing off-the-books medical care and advice to countless folks in need and showing up to Sunday morning services even after a rough night of call. She was also a loving and involved mother – somehow always making time to pop down to the hospital cafeteria for a quick meal, call her daughters daily on her commutes, visit them and get to know their friends, and ready to swoop in to support in moments of need. One of Sandy’s greatest joys was when Sabrina decided to follow in her footsteps and became a surgeon. Sabrina was able to do learning rotations with Sandy in both medical school and residency and the two would regularly talk shop – seeking advice and sparring on how to handle complex cases.
In late 2011, Sandy became ill and had to retire early from her surgery career. She spent the next 10 years battling chronic pain and auto-immune disorders. It was hard to transition from caregiver to patient and even in the worst of times, she was often able to surprise nurses and doctors with her deep medical knowledge.
During this time, Sandy became a proud “Nana” to two grandsons and in 2020, Kim retired and they moved back to “The Cottage” on Center Lake in Tustin, Michigan. This had always been one of Sandy’s favorites places – a beautiful refuge from her full and sometimes stressful life. Sandy passed away there on April 21 with family at her side.
She will be missed fiercely but her family and friends are comforted in knowing that her spirit and legacy live on in all the people that she inspired as a loving partner, dedicated mother, brilliant surgeon, relentless caregiver, compassionate friend and humble servant.
Rev. Kim Gladding is a retired elder in the Desert Southwest Conference. He was a graduate of Central Michigan University, Saint Paul School of Theology, and Wesley Theological Seminary. He was admitted on probation in 1988 in the West Michigan Conference and served at Maple Hill UMC in Howard City, MI and as an associate at Grandville UMC in Grandville, MI. He became a member in full connection in 1992 and served at Faith UMC in Grand Rapids, MI. In the Desert Southwest Conference, he served at Bethel UMC in Phoenix and then transferred his membership to the Desert Southwest Conference in 2001. He continued serving at Bethel UMC and was later appointed to First UMC in Glendale, AZ in 2006. Rev. Gladding retired in 2020.
Memorial services will be held on June 4th at 11:00 am (pacific) at First United Methodist Church, 7102 N 58th Drive, Glendale, AZ 85301-2434. An additional service will take place on June 18th at 11:00 am (eastern) at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 3334 Breton Road SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512.
Condolences can be sent to:
Rev. Kim Gladding
15177 W Center Lake Dr
Tustin, MI 49688-8400
Memorial gifts may be sent to one of the following organizations that were very special to Sandy:
We join our hearts together in grief, acknowledging our human loss. May God grant us grace, that in pain we may find comfort; in sorrow, hope; and in death, resurrection. With gratitude for the life and ministry of Mrs. Sandy Gladding, please hold her family and friends in prayer at this time.