Sandra Lee Graydon Ashby, an award-winning civic activist and retired Hempstead principal who began as an education assistant in the late 1960s and rose through the ranks, has died of cancer.

Ashby died Aug. 1 at the Hospice Inn in Melville, where she had been for a week after three weeks at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, family members said. She was 72.

Born on Long Island, Ashby attended schools in Lawrence and Washington, D.C., where she moved from Inwood when she was 11. She received her bachelor’s degree in education from Queens College in 1972 and a master’s degree there in special education in 1983. In between, in 1975, she obtained a master’s in education from Hofstra University, and in 1987 received a professional diploma in education administration from Brooklyn College.

She began working in the Hempstead district at Jackson Main School in 1968 as an education assistant, before she began teaching grades four to six there two years later. She was the assistant principal at Fulton Elementary School, now named David Paterson Elementary School, from 1994 to 1998, when she became principal at Ludlum Elementary School, now Barack Obama Elementary School. She retired in 2005, although afterward she did some consulting for the district occasionally.

“Sandy was a very caring person, especially about family. She was an education advocate, and she adored her two grandsons, Deon and David Boyd of Hempstead. Her last words to me were ‘take care of my boys,’ ” said longtime friend Betty Ford, of Hempstead, a retired high school teacher in the district.

Among her many philanthropic organizations, Ashby was a member of the Nassau Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Diamond Life member, and was on the board of directors for the Girl Scouts of Nassau County and the Hempstead Boys and Girls Club, among others.

“She and her husband, Frank, were great assets to Hempstead,” said longtime community leader Mel Jackson, head of the Leadership Training Institute in the village.

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Both her husband of 41 years and her daughter, Alicia Boyd, 39, died in 2004.

Ashby, a 40-year member of Antioch Baptist Church in the village, was the recipient of many awards, including the Educator of the Year Award in 2000 from National Council of Negro Women, Long Island Cross County Section; the NAACP Education Award in 2006, and the village’s Women’s History Month Leadership Award in 2012.

Besides her grandsons, she is survived by two brothers, Horace Graydon Jr., of Hempstead, and Gaston McVea, of Washington, D.C., and a sister, Jean McVea-Parker, also of Washington.

A viewing will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Antioch Baptist Church. A service will be held there at 10 a.m. Saturday. Burial will follow at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale.