I write ads for a living, but the toughest one I ever wrote was this week, an obituary for my father who passed away Tuesday in Summerville, SC. For those of you who don’t subscribe to the Post & Courier or the Lynchburg News & Advance.
Guy Wayne Saunders, of Summerville, SC and a longtime resident of Lynchburg, VA, died peacefully in hospice care December 1st, after a prolonged battle with cancer. Born on May 6th, 1942 in Lynchburg, Virginia to Guy Wilson Saunders and Maggie Jones Saunders, he was the direct descendent in a long of tough, stubborn men with warm hearts. He was a Virginia Gentleman with Scottish DNA.
He is survived by his devoted wife Helena, to whom he was married for 49 ½ years.
No man ever loved his wife more.
He also leaves behind 2 children, David Saunders of Midlothian, VA and Katherine Saunders Pemberton of Summerville; a daughter-in-law Susan, a son-in-law James and 4 TOTALLY AWESOME grandchildren; Hattie, Jack, Isabel and Olivia. He was an only child, but had dozens of cousins that were like sisters and brothers.
No man ever loved his family more.
He grew up in Amherst County and graduated from Nelson County HS and afterwards he turned his love for photography into a vocation and lifelong avocation. He pursued photography by attending The Kodak Institute and the prestigious Winona School of Photography.
He started his career as a news photographer for the Lynchburg News & Daily Advance and later The News Herald in Morganton, NC. He then began working for the US Army as a photographer at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. During his time working for the Army, he photographed and filmed weapons systems at Edgewood Arsenal, including many chemical and biological weapons systems, including many that the U.S. government denied possessing. When President Nixon ordered stockpiles of chemical agents destroyed in advance of the Biological Weapons Convention, he lost his contract due to budget cuts. He was deeply affected by what he saw at Edgewood, but only spoke a few times about it. He kept a big trunk of “interesting” pictures, negatives and film reels in his attic for years. He called it “insurance” against an IRS audit.
No man ever loved photography more.
But the Edgewood experience changed him from a news photographer into an artistic and portrait photographer.
Yet, unable to convince the residents of tiny Madison Heights, Virginia that they needed an artistic studio photographer, he folded his short-lived business venture and in 1972, he joined the Lynchburg Fire Department. After a time fighting fires (and driving the back of a hook and ladder truck), he graduated from Lynchburg Police Academy and dedicated most of his 25 years of service to the Fire Marshall’s office. As an arson investigator, he had the best clearance rate in the country, 100% of cases, which is astonishing considering that the national average for solving arson cases is only 34%.
No man loved his job and the people he worked with more.
He was a longtime member of the Lynchburg Sertoma Club and First Baptist Church of North Charleston and made many friends there. He had several nicknames and at 6’4” many called him “Big Wayne” or “Chief.” His grandkids called him “Papa.”
In 1983, he achieved what many believe may have been his greatest accomplishment; getting the Little Debbie Snack Cake company to send him a semi-truck full of snack cakes. It’s a long, funny story you can see by clicking here.
He had the patience and wisdom to be the perfect Dad and the personality to best the “best. grandpa. ever.” To keep harmony among his kids and grandkids, he’ll be forever known as the sage who invented the “You Divide, I’ll Pick” system. Y.D.I.P., as it is now known, is method for sharing (and occupying young minds) when the division of portions of ice cream, candy and other important things is needed. One child divides the goodies in to 2 portions, and the other child picks which one they want. #brilliant
No man ever loved his kids and grandkids more.
A visitation will be held at Parks Funeral Home Friday, December 4th from 6-8 pm, and a graveside service will be held at Summerville Cemetery Saturday December 5th at 11 am. A memorial service is being prepared for friends and family in the Lynchburg area after the 1st of the year.
In lieu of flowers, consider a donation to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation at www.JohnWayne.org