Mark Williams Sanders, 85, passed away at his home in Oconee County on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. He was a beloved member of the greater Athens community for more than six decades, best known for his gentle spirit, strong faith, sweet smile, keen wit, and unconditional love and loyal support for his family and friends.
Surviving this cherished husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend are his wife and best friend of 60 years, Sandra “Sandy” Jean Hutchison Sanders of Athens; son Mark Williams Sanders VI and Elizabeth “Beth” Browning Sanders of Athens; daughter Jean “Jeanie” Marie Sanders Sullivan and Edward “Eddie” David Sullivan of Columbia, SC; grandchildren Mark Williams Sanders VII of Washington, DC; Caroline Lydia Sanders of Charleston, SC; Sanders Dunklin Sullivan of Clemson, SC; Campbell Carrilee Sullivan of Columbia, SC; sister Elizabeth “Betty” Sanders Allen and Hiram Chisolm “Hikie” Allen of Decatur, GA; sister-in-law Wylene Hutchison Myers and Dennis Myers of Hoschton, GA, as well as a number of beloved nieces, nephews, and special friends.
Mark was born at home in Culloden, Georgia on February 11, 1932 to Mark Williams Sanders, a merchant, and Carrie Lee Ouzts Sanders, a school teacher, and maintained a lifelong affection for that historic village and the many friends and families who helped rear and nurture him. A seventh generation Georgian, he was a proud product of the public schools of Monroe and Crawford Counties, and was graduated from Mary Persons High School in Forsyth in 1948.
Mark left Culloden at age 17 to join the United States Navy, hitchhiking across the country to port in San Diego and then on to naval electronics school on Treasure Island. He was deployed during the Korean War aboard the destroyer USS Hamner (DD-718) as its electronics technician. Following the war, Mark returned to Georgia under the GI Bill and graduated from Southern Technical Institute in Chamblee in 1955 with a degree in electronics and communications technology. Many of his colleagues from these Navy and college days remained close friends of “Redbird” for the balance of his life.
Upon graduation, Mark was hired by the upstart International Business Machines Corporation in 1954, and then assigned to Athens in 1955 as their sole “customer engineer” serving clients across Northeast Georgia. A true early pioneer and devotee of IBM who won several corporate service awards, he loyally and dependably served for a distinguished career of 36 years before retiring on October 31, 1991. Mark was always most proud of his role in helping to establish and accelerate the building of The University of Georgia’s UCNS Computer Center under the direction and mentorship of Dr. James Carmon and many other valued friends and colleagues.
Mark and his sweetheart Sandra met while he was in college and were married on September 2, 1956 at Norcross Baptist Church. Making their home and establishing their family in Athens, Mark poured his life into the lives of his children, Mark and Jeanie. A devoted Christian and active churchman throughout his life, he and Sandra were charter members of Beech Haven Baptist Church and later returned to First Baptist Church of Athens where they remained active in its work and ministries.
Perhaps Mark’s greatest claim to fame was his role as “Papa,” the consummate grandfather who never missed one of his grandchildren’s church or school activities or athletic events. Sporting his famous “bucket hat,” he was counted among the most loyal supporters of the Athens Academy Spartans, the A.C. Flora Falcons, and his hometown Georgia Bulldogs. In 2010, Mark was recognized as “Grandfather of the Year” during the South Carolina State Fair on the basis of a nomination by his granddaughter’s essay. His other hobbies included amateur genealogist, trout fisherman, fix-it-man, puzzle-solver, trip-packer, and camper extraordinaire. Papa gave his all to his family and was at his very best when he was with his family in God’s great creation at his beloved Mountain Rest, SC; Sunset Beach, NC; Tallulah River, GA, and countless campgrounds, hiking trails, waterfalls, historic monuments, and quirky roadside attractions across the country.
A memorial service celebrating Mark’s life will be held on this Saturday, July 15 at 2:00 p.m. at Lord and Stephens Funeral Home West located at 1211 Jimmy Daniel Road in Watkinsville. The family will receive friends at Lord and Stephens from 12:30 p.m. until the start of the 2:00 pm service. Following the service, the family welcomes family and friends to join them at their home.
In lieu of flowers the family requests that any memorial gifts be directed to the First Baptist Church of Athens’ “Regenerate Capital Campaign” c/o First Baptist Church Athens, 355 Pulaski Street, Athens 30601-2860.
Mark’s family would like to express their profound love and appreciation to Dr. Benjamin Holland and Dr. Joseph Poole and the entire Piedmont Athens Regional Cardiology group, for their exceptional bedside manner and unsurpassed care, as well as eternal gratitude to special friends Felicia Johnson, Dana Seidel, and all of those gifted caregivers associated with Compassionate Care Hospice team who truly became a part of our extended family in loving and caring for Mark during this sacred journey.