The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Ossabaw Island Foundation offer our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Eleanor “Sandy” Torrey West who died on January 17, 2021 at the age of 108. Both the Georgia DNR and the Ossabaw Island Foundation have worked closely with Ms. West over the past several decades.
Ms. West served as the matriarch of Ossabaw Island, which is made up of 26,000 unspoiled acres of forest, wetlands and beaches on the Georgia coast in Chatham County. Ms. West’s parents purchased the island in 1924 and in 1978, Ms. West and her family sold Ossabaw Island to the state of Georgia. At that time, an executive order established Ossabaw as Georgia’s first heritage preserve, which decrees that the island may only be used for “natural, scientific and cultural study, research and education, and environmentally sound preservation, conservation and management of the island’s ecosystem.”
Since the purchase of Ossabaw Island by the state of Georgia, the DNR and the Ossabaw Island Foundation have worked to assure that the island is used in accordance with the Heritage Preserve, while striving to maintain Ossabaw’s valuable ecosystem, its indigenous wildlife, and its cultural and historic resources. Ms. West retained exclusive lifetime use and management of the home that her parents built on Ossabaw in 1924-26, as well as the 23 acres surrounding the Torrey West House. At her death, this 23 acre parcel immediately became part of the Ossabaw Island Heritage Preserve, as mandated by the 1978 sale agreement, and is now under the management of the DNR and the Ossabaw Island Foundation.
Both the Georgia DNR and the Ossabaw Island Foundation will continue to work together to honor the legacy left to our state by Ms. West and her family, as we care for and share the island that so many Georgians have enjoyed visiting over the years. Please do not hesitate to reach out to either of the respective offices with any questions about the future of Ossabaw Island. Again, our thoughts are with those close to Ms. West and all who were touched by her spirit, her vision for Georgia’s coast and for Ossabaw Island. The Ossabaw Island Foundation will direct any donations in honor and memory of Sandy to the Torrey-West Fund to be used for the renovation of her house.