Gery Thomas Sandling

March 6, 1946October 5, 2013

Gery Thomas Sandling, 67, died peacefully at home, Saturday, October 5 after a 6-month battle with cancer.

Gery was born March 6, 1946 in Durham NC at Watts Hospital. He was the beloved only child of Myrtle Pope Sandling and John Gray Sandling. He grew up in a large extended family whose ancestors came to the Durham, Creedmoor area in the mid-1700s. Gery came of age amidst family stories of his grandmother making pies and carrying them to market in downtown Durham on a horse drawn wagon. He also remembered when Crabtree Valley Mall was a cow pasture.

In childhood and adolescence Gery attended the local schools, Carr Methodist Church, where he sang in the Children’s Choir, and was a Boy Scout, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout. In middle school he starred in musicals, and at Durham High, he was a leader, President of the student body, and won an oratorical contest sponsored by a local civic organization. Throughout his youth he made friends wherever he went and was always highly respected, admired, and popular.

His winning way with people naturally led him to pursue a career in psychology. In 1964 he started at UNC Chapel Hill, but left after 2 years to join the army and have some more “growing up time.” He went to Officers Training School, became a 1st Lieutenant, had the good fortune not to go to Vietnam, but proudly served 4 years from 1966-1970.

Ready to resume his education, Gery re-enrolled at UNC and graduated in Psychology in 1972. He then began a Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University in Clinical Psychology, loving his courses and clinical work. He interned for one year in Chicago, embracing the city, winter weather, and diversity of the people. He received his Ph.D. in 1981.

In 1978 Gery moved back to North Carolina, taking a position in Children’s Services at the Wake County Mental Health Center. While there he earned the respect of his colleagues and clients as a skilled, effective, and compassionate psychotherapist. While there, he made life long friendships with co-workers and met Abby Snell, a clinical social worker. They shared cases, became good friends, and in 1982, after dating for 2 years, were married on October 30. Their 30-year marriage was a loving partnership in which they shared the love of their work, love of a large community of family and friends, and especially their daughter, Julia Claire. Gery was a fun loving, warm, easy going, and “cool” dad who took pleasure in and was unfailingly supportive of Abby and Julia’s interests and endeavors. He never missed an activity or event that was important to either of them. He was always “there” for them and gave them his best self.

As in his personal life, Gery gave his best in his work, leaving the mental health center to establish a private psychotherapy practice in 1983. In addition, he was a psychological consultant with numerous organizations including Project Enlightenment, Haven House Services for Children, Willie M. Services, The Rehab Center for the Blind, and several private mental health organizations. He was a member of the NC Psychological Association and President of the Coalition for Mental Health Services. He was a strong advocate for an increase in affordable mental health services.

To Gery’s dismay, a stroke in 2007 forced him into an early retirement. However, he made a remarkable adjustment and was able to pursue more of his hobbies and interests, with the exception of sailing and boating. Gery loved the “water” and so enjoyed sailing/boating on the coast, in the sound, on the Neuse, or at the local lakes. He especially loved having Julia as his 1st Mate. When no longer able to boat, Gery enjoyed his other passions for cooking, gardening, photography, reading (especially history), and drawing. In addition, he loved travel and he, Abby, and Julia had wonderful trips to Korea, France, England, and Alaska.

Gery was a member of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church for 10 years, singing in the choir for the past 4 years. He was also an usher and volunteer with the Hope Center.

Gery is survived by his wife Abby, daughter Julia Sandling Hixson, son-in-law Todd Hixson, and granddaughter Mary-Knowles Hixson, all of Raleigh. He is also survived by his Aunt Doris Sandling of Raleigh, and cousins: Jan Howard and husband Larry of Durham, Sharon Freeburg and husband Tom of St. Charles, IL, Barbara Morris and husband Ashley of Newport, TN, Joseph Sandling and wife Elizabeth of Raleigh, Stuart Chandler and wife Marie of Fort Mill, SC, Felton Sandling and wife Sandra of Richmond Hill, GA, Carol Rodriguez and husband Paul of Wilmington, NC, Jimmy Clark and wife Dare of Durham, Nancy Harris and husband Wade of Hillsborough, NC, and David Pope and wife Becky of Hurdle Mills, NC. He is also survived by his In-Laws Susan Snell and Thomas Callanen of McLean, VA, and nephews William Callanen and wife Viola of Phoenix, AZ, Benjamin Snell-Callanen of Mexico City, MX, Matthew Snell-Callanen of Burlington, VT, and Jonathan Snell-Callanen of Los Angeles, CA. Gery was preceded in death by his father Gray Sandling in 1978 and his mother Myrtle Sandling in 2000.

The memorial service and celebration of Gery’s life will take place Friday, October 11 at 10:00a.m at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, NC. A reception will follow the service at the church. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Music Ministry at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church (, The Triangle Aphasia Project (, or Hospice of Wake County (

The family expresses their gratitude for the many kindnesses in thought and deed of friends, family, and caregivers.

Arrangements by Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, Saint Mary’s St. Raleigh. Condolences may be made through


  • Memorial Service Friday, October 11, 2013

Gery Thomas Sandling

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Cynthia Baldwin

October 12, 2013

Dr. Sandling was a wonderful person and a terrific Psychologist who will be greatly missed. I will keep his family and friends in my prayers.

Lynn Hamilton

October 10, 2013

The first time I saw Gery was in a school play at Holloway Street Elementary in Durham. He sang, and I was amazed. Later, at East Durham Junior High, we became good friends and continued this friendship through Durham High School. I played the piano when he sang at school functions. Regrettably, I lost track of Gery in our twenties. I am grateful to his family for the wonderful story of his life, confirming what we all believed lay in store for him--a productive, love-filled life that brought joy to all who knew him. It was like this as we grew up. My deepest sympathies to his family.

Paul Rowland, Ph. D.

October 10, 2013

Gery and I were fellow students in graduate school and colleagues later in his work for NC's Rehab Center for the Blind. The family of this gentle, giving man is in my thoughts and prayers.

LaVerne Swann

October 10, 2013

It was my most fortunate experience to have met and worked with Dr. Sandling at the Rehab Center for the Blind. He helped so many of our consumers who were experiencing grief with their challenging vision losses. When they wanted to die, Dr. Sandling gave them reasons to live. He was a great guy!!

Wayland Massey

October 9, 2013

I remember Gery from Holton (East Durham) Jr. High and Durham High Schools. He was a natural leader and a friendly and kind person. Sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Pamela Locklear-Kinney

October 9, 2013

I worked with Gery and Abbey at Wake County Mental Health. Gery was so kind and helped me to understand the nature of the illness that young people sometimes had to endure. Gery you will be truly missed.

Susan Dunnagan

October 9, 2013

I knew Gery and family from Carr Church thru high school.Some of my classmates just recently reconnected with him. We speak often of him with fond memories of his sweet spirit. My condolences and prayers for all who love him. Susan Walker Dunnagan

Beth (Smith) Rickman

October 9, 2013

An "Earthly Angel" has become a "Heavenly Angel"
To God Be the Glory.
(1964 DHS)

October 9, 2013

Abbey,Julia and family-it is with our deepest sympathy to hear of Gery's passing-our thoughts and prayers are with you-Sue and Jim Langley(Helen Pope's daughter)Raleigh,NC


October 9, 2013

Abby and Julia
My deepest sympathy