Remembering artist John Kuchera
John Kuchera, Pittsford resident and creator of the iconic Sandy Strong mascot for Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center, passed away peacefully on Jan. 25 at 80 years old.
A native of West Aliquippa, Pa., Kuchera lived a life filled with art. He began his career when he was just 10 years old, winning an Aliquippa newspaper contest for creating a villainous character called Frogman for Dick Tracy, a popular detective comic strip at the time.
Over the decades, Kuchera had a colorful career, which included painting balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, serving as a journalist in the Navy and illustrating more than 75 books. Rochester residents might be familiar with Kuchera’s old comic strip, “Spadder,” which he once did for the Democrat and Chronicle.
Despite Kuchera’s long list of artistic contributions over the course of his lifetime, the creation that resonates most with the Golisano Children’s Hospital community is the beloved character and mascot Sandy Strong, which Kuchera created in the 1980s. Much like Mickey Mouse, Sandy Strong – the memorable “child on the mend” – is still very recognizable, though she’s evolved quite a bit over the years.
In 2002, Sandy got a splash of color, with a new bright red dress and six new friends –three girls and three boys, collectively known as Sandy’s Friends. In 2009, Sandy and her friends were revised further. They gained dimension with extra shading and more life, with sparkles in their eyes. Today, Sandy can be seen wearing all sorts of fun costumes like a golf outfit for the Golf Classic and a cape for the superhero-themed Stroll for Strong Kids.
Golisano Children’s Hospital would like to salute the life of John Kuchera and thank him for having left an indelible mark on our institution’s identity with the gift of his art and imagination.