Artist Spotlight: Sandra Windsor
Sandra Windsor’s recent memoir tells a national story through a local lens. As the wife of an FBI agent based in Garfield County in the ‘60s, she had a unique perspective on the tumultuous social revolution of the 1960s and ’70s— the trauma of the Kennedy assassination, Dr. King’s Selma march and the war on organized crime. She will return to Glenwood Springs for a book signing and reading of “The FBI Wife” from 4-6 p.m. Friday, June 17, at the Book Train.
PI: Where did you grow up and what was it like?
SW: I was born in Lansing, Michigan, where my father was an executive in the auto industry. My parents were products of the depression; thus, we lived comfortably, but no waste was tolerated. We traveled as a family, which none of my friends really did. … I graduated from high school in 1956 and headed east to the University of Delaware for college. I needed to exercise my independence.
PI: How did you meet your late husband?
SW: It was during my freshman year. … [He was] two years my senior, a varsity athlete with good academic credentials. …
He was good looking, confident, nice and genuine. His engaging smile was a hook. He was a lot like my father: driven to succeed and very smart. These were qualities I wanted in a partner, even at age 18.
PI: What was it like being an FBI wife in the ’60s?
SW: In short, it was difficult, which is probably true of everyone who lived during that time. Being part of the FBI complicated my life. No one was supposed to know we were an FBI family. With four children keeping anything a secret was impossible. I had no one to talk to about much of anything, yet I was taking messages for my husband from his circle of informants, who were definitely not living within the law. I knew things I wasn’t supposed to know. I was the target of two home break-ins and too many instances of threatening phone calls to recall. Fear was my companion, and my journal my confidante.
PI: What inspired you to write about it?
SW: I knew very early on that I was living a life different from others, one uncertain and controlled by Mr. Hoover. He dictated agents’ lives: no divorce, no riding in the Bureau car, no moving allowance for the family. During the Kennedy assassination when Cliff was sent to Dallas, I stood in the dining area one night. The children were asleep. I was alone. I knew this would not be the last time I would find myself in this situation and that when enough time had passed, I believed I would write my story. I needed 40 years of distance and the courage it would take to re-live that period of my life.
PI: Was there any particular part that was more difficult to write? Any section of which you’re particularly proud?
SW: The hardest part to write were the scenes in New Jersey. I’m proud I was able to dig as deeply as I did to pull the emotions. I love the part of the book where we are crossing the Rockies. Those images are very strong for me and propelled me forward.
PI: What brought you to Glenwood? To what extent is it a part of this narrative?
SW: We were transferred to Glenwood. It was Cliff’s decision. He was on the fast track in Washington, D.C., with impeccable credentials and decided against my wishes to take a low-key assignment in a new resident agency they were opening in Glenwood Springs. … I had never lived in the West or in a small community. … It was a hard move for all of us, but the community embraced us even though they didn’t think they needed the FBI. Cliff’s territory covered a large chunk of the Western Slope. My territory became my town and my job as an English teacher at the high school. My children thrived. We became connected to this special place.
When Cliff was killed [in an airplane accident], these people encircled us with love. This is why I am so excited about reconnecting with this most important part of my life with this visit at the Book Train.
PI: What are you doing now and what’s next?
SW: I am married to Ray Windsor, my partner and best friend.
I teach writing at Colorado Technical University on a part-time basis. I attend writing classes and conferences and I write. In 2015, I wrote an award-winning short story for Writer’s Digest, and I’m currently working on a novel.
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