Elder Sanders, a resident of North Berkeley for over 70 years and a graduate of Berkeley High (class of 1945) died on Feb. 10 at age 95.
Born in Oakland, Elder spent his younger years back and forth between Berkeley and Chappell Hill, Texas, where his family was from. Elder and his older brother James were able to travel for free because their father worked for the Southern Pacific train line. As a teen in Berkeley, Elder played a variety of sports and excelled in track and field.
While in the military, Elder became a physical fitness trainer preparing the troops for battle. Elder was honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force with good conduct and received United Nations and Korean service medals.
After leaving the Air Force, Elder started working for General Motors. He retired from General Motors after 31 years of service.
Even though Elder spent three decades on the floor at the East Oakland and Fremont GM plants, Elder never owned a car and never had a driver’s license nor drove. He walked. He walked and walked and was known for walking through the community.
Elder was also an entrepreneur who bought and sold real estate and owned multiple properties.
While working at GM in the early ’70s, he got together with a few friends and family members and opened a small pub on University Avenue in Berkeley called Toulouse. They served beer, wine, sandwiches and chili. The place was said to have had a great vibe and was popular with artists. They had live performances from poets and musicians.
Elder Sanders was a generous and loving man to family and friends and had a great smile for everyone with an amazing spirit. He was a self-taught artist who left an incredible collection of art, painting and drawings. Elder was also a self-taught musician who loved to exhibit his alto sax skills for the neighborhood. He was of course a lover of jazz. Miles, Coltrain and Parker were his favorites.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Elder and Helen Sanders; aunts Alice Greenleaf and Mary Hubbard; brothers, James, Frank, Fritz Sanders and Jack Dorsey; sister, Marie Williams and great nephew Jeff Rollerson. He is survived by his niece Gloria Rollerson and husband Welton; special great nephew and caregiver Scott Marshall; caregiver great niece Jennifer Yelton and husband Marcus; nephew Fred Crenshaw; great great nephew Austin Yelton; wonderful cousins Erick Thompson and wife Caterina; Reggie Coleman and many more loving relatives and friends.
The family would like to thank his caregivers, Patricia Fraizer, Ms. Connie Usher, Abi Scarbrough and Merhawit (Mary) Gebreaeb for the love and attention they gave to him.