Cover photo for Sandra Pena's Obituary
1947 Sandra 2022

Sandra Pena

July 10, 1947 — October 5, 2022

Sandra Karen Pena

"For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible." (The Song of Bernadette)

Sandra Karen Pena, 75, of Kamiah, passed away on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, at her home. Her family sends all their love to their loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt and niece who is with God now.

Sandra Karen Kessler, was born July 10, 1947, to Rena Katherine Lott (Wetsesa) and Charles Kessler in Lewiston. Her mother later married Clifton "Butch" Ramsey, who raised Sandra and her siblings as his own children, so she called him Dad. Her Indian name 'Alpowama (connection to area of the Nez Perce homeland). She was a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, whose Nez Perce lineage traces back to Chief Red Grizzly Bear, Blackeagle and Wottolen and Wetsesa (her great-grandparents who survived the Nez Perce Conflict of 1877). Her grandparents were Samuel Lott (Many Wounds) and Cecelia Showaway Williams (Sunset). Her great-grandfather Paul Showaway (White Cloud) was the last hereditary chief of the Cayuse Tribe.

As a child, she grew up in her Grandma Cecelia's home on the Clearwater River in Kamiah, which had no electricity, running water, or indoor plumbing for many years. Sandra and her siblings helped their family with "daily living" that included gardening with their grandma. They also traveled extensively throughout the Northwest to visit relatives or do seasonal work like picking fruit. It was many years before they owned a car, so they often traveled by train. Sandra's family would camp for a month in the mountains to pick berries and practice cultural ways.

She enjoyed attending school in Kamiah, cheerleading and participating in community events. Sandra had a fond memory of riding behind her grandma on a horse in the BBQ Days parade. She cried when people said she was a "cute little girl. Singing "Silent Night" at church during Christmas with her sister Coy as the "Kessler Dames" was another cherished story. She loved swimming and later spent countless hours with her children and grandchildren at the river.

Eventually, Sandra started her own family, with her daughters Stacey Lynn Kessler (1963) and Katherine Renae Pena (1967). She was married to Isadore "Izzy" Pena. They lived for a time with his family in Rupert, Idaho and with her family in Lapwai. Although they later divorced, she continued to care and respect him as they remained committed to their children and grandchildren.

Sandra would eventually get her GED and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification at Lewis-Clark State College. Over time, she earned more college credits and certifications in food and nutrition. Sandra became affectionately known as the "Cooker" at the Nez Perce Head Start Program in Kamiah. She also contributed to language and story time with the children, including her puppet show called Chef Combo that taught about nutrition and vitamins.

Her life revolved around her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She took pride in their intelligence, athleticism, cultural knowledge and service to others. Often, she would weave bags, bead various items, or sew moccasins for them. She loved to watch them at meets, games or pow-wows, or hang out with them watching cartoons. They are grateful to her for teaching them by example to be generous, humble, loyal and courageous. She often gave money to help people, or to support charities for cancer or feeding children.

Her strength was evident as a cancer survivor, who drove herself for radiation treatment twice a week for a year. It was important to her to be forgiving and to stand up for her family. Her nieces and nephews treasured her as their second mom, who was fun-loving, wise and caring.

She was a lifelong member of St. Catherine's Catholic Church in Kamiah. Her spirituality helped her find peace and direction. She often prayed to get through life's challenges, or to give thanks. Sandra enjoyed reading or watching inspirational stories about people's faith in God.

Sandra is survived by her daughters Stacey Kessler of Kamiah and Renae Pena of Phoenix, her grandchildren LaFawn Kessler of Kamiah, Sophie Kessler of Mountain Home, Idaho, Travis Pena of Kamiah, Marcus Pena of McAllen, Texas and Zachary Pena. Her great-grandchildren, Jasmine Oatman (Kale Pettengill) of Lewiston, Raphael Kessler, Timuni Moses, Rainbow Moses, Alatello Moses, Chantel Pena and Travis Pena Jr., all of Kamiah. Her sister Rosa Yearout and her husband Jon of Sweetwater, brother-in-law OG Mason, best friend Marlene Walker of Kamiah and numerous aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews and their children and grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Butch and Rena Katherine Ramsey and Charles Kessler. Her grandfather Samuel Lott, grandmother Cecelia Showaway Williams, brother James Higheagle, sister Coy Swift Mason and four siblings who died as infants, Sammy Kessler, Julius Broncheau, Simon Lott and Ardella Almighty; grandson Gabriel Warden and nieces Beverly "Candy" Higheagle and Shelly Higheagle.

A rosary will be recited at 6 p.m. Today, at Wa-A'Yas Community Center, 401 Idaho St., Kamiah, which will be followed by a memorial service.

Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday, at St. Catherine's Catholic Church, 407 Seventh St., Kamiah. Fr. Paul Wander of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Cottonwood will be the celebrant. Burial will be at the Second Church Cemetery on No Kid Lane in Kamiah, followed by dinner at the Wa-A'Yas Community Center.

Donations may be made in her memory to the new Nez Perce Boys and Girl's Club in Kamiah.

Trenary Funeral Home of Kooskia is in charge of arrangements.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Sandra Pena, please visit our flower store.


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