Mary Louise Sanders
1937 – 2013
Mary Louise Sanders was born in 1937 in Amarillo, Texas. She came with her family to the San Diego area in the late 1940’s. She had two sisters and four brothers. She met her husband of 60 years, Gerald Sanders, Sr. in 1953 and married shortly after. Together they had five children. Cheryl Hinton (Museum Curator and Director), Gerald Sanders, Jr. (Steele Construction Superintendent and woodworker), Susan Sanders-Young (Attorney in Poway and Ramona Bar Association), Christine Branch (who proceeded Mary in death in 2010) and William H. Sanders (Technology Specialist at William S. Hart School District). They also had 14 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. Five of who grew up and graduated from Julian High School. Two of her Great Grandchildren live in Shelter Valley as well (Sam and Noah Bennett). They even had a second family as they raised three of their grandchildren, Jennifer Bennett, Josh and Jon Murray. She managed to pull all these loved ones together every year for a weekend long Thanksgiving Celebration in Shelter Valley (plus all the various nieces and nephews and family friends who needed a place to go spend the holiday, no one was left out).
Mary was not only a mother and grandmother, but during her 70+ years of life, was a beautician and stylist, a hair model, Registered Nurse- with an OB- GYN emphasis, and Volunteer Extraordinaire. Alongside her husband Jerry (Retired Shelter Valley Fire Chief), helped rebuild and modernize the Shelter Valley Volunteer Fire Station and was an integral part in helping the department survive the San Diego County Fire Authority take over and transition. She made sure our newly recruited volunteer/reserves were made to feel at home at the station, insisting they had many comforts to make them feel appreciated. She was a Board Member for many years and managed the office with Jerry as well. She managed the fundraisers and parties as well as kept up good relations with the other backcountry Volunteer Fire Companies. She also helped transition in the current SVVFD Chief Kevin Bennett (her Grandson by marriage to Jennifer Bennett). In addition to her work at SVVFD, she was a founding member of the Shelter Valley Kids Club, taught craft lessons, helped with the annual Christmas party and summer events, as well as just being a constant help in maintaining the building for the kids (and who can forget her Nachos), stocking up for Movie Night and cashing in recyclables to help keep costs down. And if that wasn’t enough, she helped the Shelter Valley Citizen’s Corporation (neighborhood community center) by chairing the ‘Christmas in October’ annual fundraiser dinner, selling thousands of raffle tickets, editing and publishing the Shelter Valley Phone Book and helping make sure the Newsletter was sent out on time to upwards of 200 people.
In her spare time , she loved to sew, make baby toys and books, layettes for new arrivals, send holiday cards and toothfairy cards with a crisp $1 bill to all the kids she knew (her list had about 30+ names), knit, shop at Walmart (as often as possible) and watch the news! She was the “go to gal” for any current events. She truly liked to hear both sides of a story (watching all channels).
The San Diego Harbor held many fond childhood memories for Mary, and she loved having fish and chips by the boats and walking the docks with her husband and whichever child, grandchild or great grandchild wanted to tag along. Mary especially loved her desert home and going for drives. Mary and Jerry could be found driving S2 at sunset on many evenings. She loved youth sports and going to Julian High School Football games, listening to her son-in-law Jim Hinton play music at Wynola Pizza, as well as visiting Borrego Springs and having tamales and margaritas at Carmelita’s Restaurant after spending an afternoon looking at wildflowers. She really loved her San Diego Backcountry!
Mary was diagnosed with cancer in October of 2010, and given less than a year to live. She showed the medical community that she had a will to live that was greater than their statistics, she battled for 34 months before she died on August 4th, 2013, in her home, at the side of her ever faithful husband (who was her advocate and caregiver through and through). She had wonderful hospice providers, who along with her family and friends, helped honor her wishes of avoiding nursing home care. The family is still in a haze, as the dust settles from the long battle. How do you fill the void, of such a powerful presence that Mary Sanders had.
Mary has been laid to rest at Singing Hills Memorial Park, in El Cajon. Not far the community from where Mary and Jerry raised their children and the hospital she worked during her many years of nursing (El Cajon Valley Hospital). A fitting place to rest now.
For those who want to know how to honor her memory, please attend the next chili-cook off, buy a raffle ticket or some baked goods, supporting a local cause. Keep an eye out for flyers and poster for upcoming events and simply show support to your neighbors who are trying to make a difference in their little corner of the world. That is what Mary did.
Bonham Bros. & Stewart Mortuary and Cremation Service assisted the family.