25 June 2007

Sandy Tucker: "One Child at a time..."

What the World needs is more Sandy Tuckers. We thank the Creator for her time on Earth among us. We offer Prayers and Smoke for her Family and loved ones...

Mitakuye Oyasin

Sandy Tucker, founder of children's home in Liberty, dies at 62

By Paula Burba
The Courier-Journal

Sandy Tucker, the tender-yet-stern matriarch of Galilean Children's Home in Liberty, Ky., which has sheltered hundreds of children since 1984, died yesterday at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington.

She was 62 and died of cancer.

"Numbers aren't anything to me," Tucker told The Courier-Journal in a 2004 story. "It's one life at a time, one child at a time."

Al Tompkins, a journalist who met Tucker about 20 years ago in Guatemala, where she was working to rescue children, remembered her "pure, unshakeable love for children."

"It didn't matter what disability they had, how functional or dysfunctional they were, they just could not escape her arms. With just that talent, she touched more than 800 children," said Tompkins, who later joined the board of the children's home.

"Sandy always loved children, always," her younger sister, Debbie Tucker, said yesterday.

The sisters married brothers, and when Debbie Tucker's husband died 32 years ago, "she took me and my three children in for a while, too."

A native of Arizona, Sandy Tucker grew up in Detroit and married Jerry Tucker in 1963. After years of marriage and no children, they adopted the first of 25 in 1969, and eventually had two biological daughters, too.

They came to Kentucky in the mid-1970s, learning about the Mennonite faith and adopting many of its principles.

They settled on a 22-acre hilltop farm in Casey County and founded the children's home where Tucker would be called "Mom" by hundreds of children in need. They were rescued from abuse or poverty, taken in from parents unable to care for them because of extreme medical needs or temporarily taken in from other countries for much-needed medical care.

Their ministry expanded beyond the children's home, where typically 50 to 70 children lived.

They also built Angel House, a home for as many as 50 babies of women in prison, and the Galilean Christian Academy, where children from the home attended pre-kindergarten through 12th grade with community children who paid tuition to attend.

They opened two restaurants, a bed-and-breakfast and a thrift store -- all self-supporting businesses that also supported the Galilean Home Ministries.

For many years, Tucker was also a midwife. She delivered more than 200 babies, mostly for women who did not want to go to hospitals because of their religious beliefs. She agreed to stop delivering babies in the early 1990s, instead of obtaining a license required by state.

With a philosophy of "no government money, no government control," as Sandy Tucker once put it, they managed to keep everything running with donations -- raising more than $225,000 in monthly expenses and covering a $1 million annual payroll with money raised through mailings and publicity.

"I guess it's just the Lord's work," Tucker told a television reporter in 1988 at Louisville's airport as she returned to Kentucky with a Haitian boy who had been in the public spotlight. The Tuckers brought him back from a "children's prison" in Haiti.

"It gets in your blood. If you love children, you can't not do it," she said.

Tucker's funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at Galilean Children's Home. Visitation will begin there at noon Saturday. She will be buried at Chapel in the Woods Cemetery there. McKinney-Brown Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

Reporter Paula Burba can be reached at (502) 582-4800.

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