Gardening 06

Sandra LuAnn Aalderks (Née Cain, Tepfer)

August 22, 1965 ~ December 14, 2023 (age 58) 58 Years Old


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Our amazing mom, daughter, wife, sister, and friend Sandy passed away peacefully in her sleep on Thursday, December 14th surrounded by her family. Sandy was born on August 22nd, 1965 in Willmar, Minnesota, just up the road from her hometown, Danube. She grew up on her family farm – which was in the family for three generations – with her parents Kathy and Ardell, her brother David, her sister Debbie, and later on baby sister Angie. She, her siblings, cousins, and neighborhood kids spent their childhood exploring the farm’s grove and machine sheds, and helping Dad out in the fields. She learned the art of cooking comfort food for a crowd from her mother, aunties, and grandmas; she learned hard work from her dad, raising pigs for 4H and threshing every harvest season. She was raised going to church and had a strong, lifelong faith. Her parents showed her that God and family are the most important things in life.

Sandy attended Danube High School, where she gained another sister, Monique, an exchange student from the Netherlands, and dated her sweetheart Jon Aalderks, who would become her husband 35 years later. Sandy attended South Dakota State for two years before giving birth to her first child, Katie Jo, and finished her education at St. Cloud State with a degree in psychology. Sandy met Jimmy Cain and moved to his home state, Montana, where they married and made Whitefish their home. They welcomed three more children: Ian, Brennen, and Lauren.

As a young mom, Sandy was very active in the church. She was the organizer of every wedding or event that needed her talents, always looking to bless others. She loved being busy with her kids and all of their activities, and believed there was always room for one more at the dinner table. She welcomed any kids into her home who needed a meal, a bed for the night, or a hug. There were countless kids who referred to her as “Mom” whom she loved and supported no matter what. She and Jim felt blessed to adopt Daniel as a teenager and complete their family of seven.

Sandy was a passionate educator, first as an aide in Muldown’s special education preschool and later at Glacier Gateway Elementary as a speech-language pathologist. Sandy inspired everyone around her by going back to school at 46 for her masters degree at the University of Montana. She treasured all of the kids whom she was able to help and the many coworkers who became friends over the years. She loved learning, being curious, and teaching others. She had a gentle way of explaining something until you “got it.” She was always able to see things from others’ point-of-view and meet people where they were. Her love was boundless and she had friends of all ages and from all walks of life. She never ran out of patience, put others first, always gave people grace and second chances, and could find the positive in any situation.

Sandy credited her faith for all the strength she had, not only in her fight against cancer but in all areas of life. She believed Jesus was the answer and trusted that all things would work out according to God’s plan. She loved with her whole heart and her smile could stop you in your tracks. She would do anything for anyone, even a stranger, and actively anticipated the needs of others.

Sandy loved Montana from the moment she moved here. Whether taking long hikes in Glacier Park, going on church backpacking trips in the Bob Marshall, exploring every lake and river, or driving across the state on her “scenic” drives, she was always up for an adventure. As her kids grew, if she ever had free time, you would find her cooking, baking, gardening, sewing, or lending an ear to a friend. Throughout her life, Sandy maintained her close connection to Minnesota – driving cross-country many times each year for family events and staying close with her childhood and college friends. Her roots were in Minnesota and it was important to her to pass that along to her children.

After they each had all of their kids, high school sweethearts Sandy and Jon reconnected and married in 2018. They loved working together, sharing their mutual appreciation of problem solving and working with their hands. Sandy’s favorite way to spend a weekend was working on a project with her soulmate and then having the whole family over for her famous homemade pizza. They were overjoyed when they became grandparents and loved having the girls over to watch movies, bake cookies, garden, work in the shop, and cuddle. The highlight of her life was spending time with her grandkids, and getting together with her ever-expanding family for dinners, birthdays, and holidays.

Sandy fought courageously against pancreatic cancer for two and a half years, but after a long fight God called her home. She remained positive with every new complication, and always said that God had a plan for her life and that somehow her cancer would bless other people. Her strength, faith, and the way she loved others was an inspiration for all of us. She is survived by her husband Jon; children Katherine (Brandon), Ian (Amber), Daniel (McKayle), Brennen, and Lauren; stepchildren Dustin and Samantha (Reid); granddaughters Karsyn, Charlie, Andi, Braeya, and baby on the way; mother Kathleen Tepfer; siblings David, Monique, Debra, and Angela; and numerous in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, and nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her father Ardell Tepfer and stepson Ryan Aalderks. Sandy believed in an ever-expanding definition of family, and there are so many who were blessed to know and love her.

We invite everyone to join us to celebrate Sandy’s life and legacy. We will have a visitation at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Whitefish on Thursday, December 21st, from 4 to 7pm, and a funeral at Christ Lutheran Church in Whitefish on Friday, December 22nd, at 5pm. In lieu of flowers, if you would like to make a donation to the family, they will distribute funds between Glacier Gateway, St. Peter Lutheran Church, PanCan, and a college fund for Sandy’s grandkids.


December 21, 2023

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
St. Peter Lutheran Church - Whitefish
201 Wisconsin Ave
Whitefish, MT 59937

Funeral Service
December 22, 2023

5:00 PM
Christ Lutheran Church
5150 River Lakes Parkway
Whitefish, MT 59937


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