DEMOREST, Ga. (AP) — Sandra Deal, the wife of former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal who was noted for her advocacy of early literacy during her husband’s two terms, died Tuesday at age 80.
The Deal family announced that Sandra Deal died Tuesday from breast cancer that metastasized into brain cancer at the family home in the northeast Georgia town of Demorest, surrounded by the former governor and other family members.
Deal, who was a teacher in Hall County for more than 15 years, achieved a goal while first lady of reading to schoolchildren in all 159 counties, all 181 Georgia school districts, and numerous prekindergarten classes, ultimately visiting more than 1,000 schools.
“A child’s brain develops at a remarkable pace between birth and his or her eighth birthday, and this growth depends on a solid start,” Deal wrote in a 2018 opinion piece in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The earlier we can help children learn about their emotions and getting along with others, the better we can inspire them to seek to know more about the world, and it is more likely that they will find success later in life.”
Deal co-chaired the Georgia Literacy Commission, promoting reading proficiency by third grade. In 2017, the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy was named for her at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, where Deal graduated from college.
Deal was first diagnosed with breast cancer while her husband was still in office, having surgery to remove a tumor in 2018.
“The public Sandra Deal matched the private Sandra Deal,” her family said in a statement. “She gave to others selflessly, unfailingly and unceasingly. We will miss her but count ourselves lucky that we were hers. She leaves a world that’s better because she was here.”
Details of a memorial service will be announced later.