Obituary: Local philanthropist Sandy Sewell helped fund Hoag Hospital Cancer Center

Longtime philanthropist Sandy Sewell died April 28 at her Newport Beach home. She was 87.
(Courtesy of Laurie Cappello)

Sandy Sewell — a longtime Newport Beach resident whose philanthropic endeavors helped establish cancer treatment facilities and programs at Hoag Hospital — died April 28 from health complications. She was 87.

A breast cancer survivor, Sewell and a contingent of like-minded women in 1987 founded Circle 1,000, a support group of donors to the Hoag Cancer Center, still under construction at the time and made possible by a $500,0000 donation from Sewell and then-husband Richard.

Founding members asked women in their social networks to contribute $1,000 annually and to encourage their friends to do the same. The nascent charity set its first-year fundraising goal at $100,000.

Arden Flamson, from left, Ginny Ueberroth, Hoag CEO and President Richard Afable and Sandy Sewell.
Arden Flamson, from left, Ginny Ueberroth, Hoag Hospital CEO and President Richard Afable and Sandy Sewell in 2005.
(File Photo)

Hospital officials and donors on April 29 celebrated the 35th anniversary of the group, whose members have so far collectively raised more than $23 million for the Hoag Family Cancer Institute.

“Sandy changed the trajectory of giving and cancer care at Hoag,” President and Chief Executive Robert Braithwaite said in a statement Tuesday. “[Her] tireless work ensured the community would never have to leave Orange County to get world-class personalized cancer care — her legacy will be honored and remembered throughout Hoag’s history.”

Sewell passed peacefully in her home surrounded by family, daughter Laurie Cappello said Wednesday. Ever the organizer, her mother left notes and lists as guidelines to follow in the wake of her passing.

“She was extraordinarily generous, not only with her philanthropic work but with people in general,” Capello said. “She really loved people, she loved her community and helping people in need.”

Sandy Sewell, right, with guide Lee Bennett, left, and friend Arden Flamson on a safari in South Africa in 2002.
(File Photo)

In addition to donating toward the Hoag Cancer Center and founding Circle 1,000, Sewell and longtime friends and benefactresses Arden Flamson and Ginny Ueberroth also served on the Sue and Bill Gross Women’s Pavilion Campaign Committee.

Together, they helped raise significant funds for the 102-bed, seven-story facility which, upon its opening in 2005, made Hoag Hospital the largest medical center in Orange County.

Born on April 19, 1935, Sandra Lee Hardin was raised in Long Beach and took ice-skating lessons as a girl, rising to championship levels in the sport. She attended the University of Southern California, where she earned a teaching credential.

In 1959, she married developer Richard Sewell and moved to Newport Beach, teaching at Corona del Mar Elementary School for five years before raising her two children and becoming involved in numerous school organizations and philanthropic causes.

Sandy Sewell, in a photo taken in the 1950s, poses in ice-skating attire.
(Courtesy of Laurie Cappello)

Sewell was diagnosed with breast cancer in the late 1970s and was given a prognosis of five to 10 years but underwent a mastectomy and radiation and was later determined cancer free. Capello said her mother’s cancer returned in 2019 but was successfully treated with a lumpectomy.

“I’m really a positive, optimistic-type person, but any person who had cancer lives with the underlying fear they will have it again,” Sewell told the Daily Pilot in 1988, calling cancer the biggest threat to women.

She is survived by daughter Laurie Sewell Cappello and partner David Nochimson, son Jeff Sewell and wife Serena Brinderson, along with six grandchildren, Blake, Sofia, Iris, Anna, Elena and Cruz.

A private family burial is planned for Friday at Pacific View Mortuary and Memorial Park in Corona del Mar. A celebration of Sewell’s life is anticipated to follow, with details to be announced.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Circle 1,000 at or to International Medical Corps at, organizations Sewell passionately supported.

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