The Greatest Generation has lost another member with the passing of James A. Sanders.
Jim was born in Omaha, Nebraska to Lyman Sanders and Inez Ahrens. He spent his early years in Grinnell, Iowa, before Lyman moved his family to Modesto to be closer to his father, William, in the early 1930s. The family eventually settled on a ranch on Moffett Rd. in Ceres. Jim graduated Ceres High school in 1942. With World War II raging in Europe, Jim, like so many young men, enlisted; he was assigned to an ambulance unit following Patton’s Third Army across Europe, an experience he later chronicled in the book Saving Lives, Saving Memories, which he wrote with Martha Loeffler. On returning home, Jim persuaded a former high school sweetheart, Marian Gondring, to become his bride. They married in 1948 and settled in a home on Roseburg Ave in Modesto. Over the course of his life, he would model the values he and Marian instilled in their children: honesty, hard work and respect for all people, no matter their status, ethnicity or religious beliefs.
Jim worked hard all his life, starting out as a Union Oil sales rep; however, when the company wanted to promote and move him to Fresno, he declined for the sake of his family. Instead, he began farming with his friend Clare Berryhill in Ceres. Farming was never fast paced enough for him, so Jim went back to the petroleum industry as an independent distributor. He successfully grew his business and eventually sold it to Don and Dick Vine. In the early ‘60s, he formed a partnership with Gene Berry and started Turlock Equipment Rentals. Jim enjoyed his time in this business and formed many lasting friendships with Turlock businessmen. After United Rentals purchased his holdings, he formed a new partnership with his cousin, Randy Sanders, and developed a commercial business consisting of mini storage units and commercial buildings in Turlock. Jim successfully ran this business for many years until retiring and handing the business to two of his sons.
Jim’s work ethic carried over to community service as well. He was president of the Ceres Lions Club, the 50 Plus Club, and Turlock Exchange Club, and received the first Exchange Club Touch a Life award for his community involvement. In retirement, he volunteered for the American Red Cross, Delta Blood Bank, and enjoyed ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at Christmas time. Furthermore, Jim visited schools on their “Day of Respect” to talk of about what he saw as his unit liberated Nazi concentration camps; it was his way of heeding the last order of General Patton to let future generations know the Holocaust did occur.
Throughout his life Jim loved his family, travel and flying. As a child, he would climb to the top of his father’s barn, to be closer to the planes flying by and pretended to fly his own plane. As an adult, he was proud of his private pilot’s license and owned many planes, his favorite being the Piper Cub. He flew well into his 80s and was involved with the Commemorative Air force even after he stopped flying. Similarly, he loved taking hunting and fishing trips with his family when his children were young. School summer vacations were special with camping trips and one memorable road trip by motorhome to Canada and Yellowstone. After the family was grown, Jim and Marian indulged their loved of travel, visiting Brazil, China, Great Britain, Europe and more. Notable trips included a 1995, trip back to the Normandy beaches to celebrate the 50th anniversary of D-Day, a 2002 trip with children and grandchildren to Paris and the Normandy coastline, and a 2010 trip to Weimar, Germany to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald.
Jim leaves behind his wife of 69 years, Marian; sons Tim(Susan), Marc(Jeanette) and Michael and daughter Anne(Scott); 13 grandchildren : AmyCecilia (Hushrav), Rebecca (Eric), Maria, Joanna (Michael) and Lizzie; Matt (Cristen), Jefferson (Stephanie) and Leah (James); Nicholas, Jimmy and Michael, Lelynd and Jazmin and 12 great grandchildren; his brothers Cliff (Arlene), Jerry (Carolyn), sister Cathryn (Don), and sister-in-law, Marlene; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his brother, Al, and his parents, Lyman and Inez. Jim had a positive influence on many throughout his lifetime and will be greatly missed. The family wishes to sincerely thank all the caregivers at Bethel Retirement Community. There is no doubt your compassion and excellent care extended Jim’s life.
A memorial service is planned for March 3, 2018 at 2:30pm at the Modesto Airport, Hangar #1. Donations can be made to the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Commemorative Air Force or a charity of your choice.