“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” -Maya Angelou
Garrett Ann Sanders lived a full and blessed life.
A life filled with loving and leading.
Supporting and helping.
Fighting for both people and causes.
Doing what’s right.
Her needs were secondary.
Her heart was her compass.
She was born Garrett Ann Williams, but everyone called her Ann. She once said she didn’t care all that much for her first name. But she grew to love it. She explained that “Garrett” was the last name of some people her mother had once worked for. She was her own person. She was “Ann!”
Ann was born in 1938 in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. She was the youngest of twelve children of Irving and Christeen Williams. She accepted Christ at an early age and was a life-long member of Greater Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
As the baby in a large family, she also learned to fight. Her relatives said Ann “took no stuff!” She stuck up for herself and others who she felt were being mistreated.
It’s a trait which would follow her throughout her life.
As a child, she assisted her mother, Christeen (better known as “Ma-teen”), with all the many domestic duties, including operating a home laundry service, which she took on to provide for her family. Ann learned the value of hard work during that time.
She cared for the garden and raised hogs. She often said, “If you didn’t raise it, then you didn’t eat it!”
Ma-teen was famous for her hot tamales. Ann would help her to make them and then sell the tamales throughout the neighborhood in a little red wagon. After football games, kids didn’t have anywhere to go, so they came to the house to eat.
She said, “My momma always had hot tamales and she would just open the door. Everybody was welcome.”
Ann graduated from Peake High School, where she excelled in the marching band. She treasured her saxophone and was considered an outstanding musician.
Ann graduated in 1956 and that same year married Hosea Sanders. Their union would last 47 years until he passed in 2003. They were blessed with five children: Hosea Lynn, Delton Ray (Belinda), Barbara Ann (Rev. Aaron Wheeler, deceased ), Vincent Bernard, Victor Louis (Angela, deceased).
She was fiercely protective of her children and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. She attended every game, every award ceremony, and every event they were a part of. Ann Sanders was a proud mother. She drove the station wagon full of Little Leaguers or football players to their away games and she later operated a virtual “open house” for out-of-town college students who needed a little piece of home.
Ann believed strongly in the power of education. After graduating from Peake High School, she attended Henderson State University and found her true calling in the field of nursing. She enrolled in the Whiteside Nursing Program in Camden, Arkansas, while also working full time at the Pizza Cellar and raising her small children.
One of her “babies’” proudest moments was seeing her graduate and speak as the president of her LPN class. She was the oldest student and the most popular.
Ann Sanders worked as a nurse for 38 years in the Arkadelphia area, specializing in cardiac care and emergency room operations. She was a trailblazer as one of the first Black nurses in the area.
She also worked as a jail nurse and eventually became the first female bailiff in the Clark County court system. Mrs. Sanders was known as an expert marksman. She proudly showed off her awards and certificates, earned during her many hours of target training...putting the “fear of God” in her terrified children.
Ann was a well-loved public servant, who was known all over for her well-told and hilarious jokes and a magnificent sense of humor. It was said, “Ann could make anyone laugh!”
She was eventually elected to a seat on the Arkadelphia City Board of Directors. She loved serving her community in that position. After two terms, she was appointed vice mayor. She was extremely proud to be an advocate for “the little people” who had complicated dealings with the city government. She fought for civic improvements and assisted countless individuals who were hoping to advance their careers and education or to simply make their lives better.
As vice mayor, Mrs. Sanders was at the forefront of recovery efforts when a deadly tornado tore through Arkadelphia in 1997. She appeared on television describing the destruction and the critical needs of the city.
She was an active participant and workshop leader in the National League of Cities; making many life-long friends across the country. Among them was then-Attorney General Janet Reno, with whom she remained in contact over the years.
Mrs. Sanders always maintained her commitment to helping the disadvantaged in her hometown. About growing up there, she often said, “We were poor but we didn’t know it. Everybody shared and helped each other.” That’s probably why so much of her energy was spent helping to feed hungry young people in her town. One of her proudest accomplishments was a program she started in conjunction with the Rice Depot in Little Rock. Every week she would make the hour-long drive to the capital city to pick up large bundles of excess food which she then broke down into small packages and took to local schools to be given to the needy. For families and children who could not pick up the food, she delivered to their homes in the family’s pickup truck.
She also gathered excess coats and jackets from wholesalers and gave them out to anyone who needed to stay warm. Items were placed in special backpacks for youngsters in a program known as “Ann’s Backpacks.”
Those efforts were featured in a special about “People Who Care” on Arkansas Educational Television.
Mrs. Sanders was a wonderful cook: she could whip up a gourmet meal using whatever was handy. She specialized in mouth-watering soul food and succulent desserts. And, of course, she was known far-and-wide for those hot tamales that she had learned to make as a child.
Ann Sanders was also a prolific motivational speaker. She gave “talks” to students and community groups throughout the region, inspiring others to reach for the highest goals, all with her legendary wit and humor.
She was the recipient of countless awards and accolades by grateful organizations and civic groups.
After her retirement from public life, Mrs. Sanders enjoyed traveling, volunteering, and cooking. She split her time between her beloved home on Caddo Street in Arkadelphia and her “second home” in Chicago, where she was loved by many and admired for her sense of style and elegance—always topped off by her trademark fashionable hats and exquisite jewelry.
She returned to her Heavenly Home on July 28, 2020, while in the tender care of her youngest son Victor and his family.
Mrs. Sanders was preceded in death by her loving husband Hosea as well as her siblings Henry Albert, Charlie Neal, Benjamin, Edith, Alex, Mary, Jack, Tassie, Vaughn Miller, and Ruth. She has one surviving sister, Margaret Shelton of Chicago.
Left to mourn her departure are her five children, ten grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren.
She is also survived by a host of friends and loved ones all across the nation.
Garrett Ann Sanders leaves a legacy of love and a lifetime of service.
Heaven has gained a tireless worker and an eternity of laughter.
A walkthrough visitation will be held at the Arkadelphia Recreation Center in Arkadelphia, AR on Friday, August 7, 2020, from 12 Noon- 7:00 P.M. Funeral services to celebrate and honor the life and legacy of Garrett Ann Sanders will be held at the Arkadelphia Recreation Center on Saturday, August 8, 2020, at 11:00 A.M. with Dr. Lewis A. Shepherd, Jr. as eulogist. Burial and final resting place will be at Rose Hill Cemetery in Arkadelphia, AR. Safe social distancing and masks are enforced following guidelines and safety practices due to Covid-19.
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