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Vivian Jones Sanders

Posted on Friday, November 3, 2023 at 2:15 pm

Vivian Jones Sanders, December 15, 1923 – September 7, 2023.

Vivian Jones Sanders was born to John Manley Jones and Ruth Adams Jones in Charlotte, North Carolina, on December 15, 1923, and grew up in Clinton, North Carolina, until leaving home for East Carolina University in Greenville and Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee.

While earning her Master of Arts degree at Peabody College in preparation for a career in teaching, she met and married Charles Neely Sanders, also earning his MA. The couple settled briefly in Kentucky, where Vivian taught at Bowling Green Business University, before moving to Southport, North Carolina. The next move was to White, Georgia, where both Vivian and Charles continued to serve as educators until returning to Tennessee. During the next thirty years, Vivian taught high school English in Flintville, Shelbyville, Petersburg, and Cornersville. Among her many teaching achievements were developing a high school course about Tennessee literature and organizing a language arts curriculum for high school students who had been left behind.

Vivian loved literature, especially American literature. Her favorite poets included Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitmen. She also loved folklore and was a member of the Tennessee Folklore society as well as the Tennessee Education Association and other professional organizations. She was an expert cook and gardener and shared her knowledge of both subjects in a collection of family recipes and a compilation of herbal lore. She also found time to assemble and write an extensive family history.

Most of Vivian’s friends will remember her as a community activist and organizer, who participated in the American Legion Auxiliary and the Lioness Auxiliary and served as a local election judge for many years. With her friend Gladys Tutor and others, Vivian founded the Petersburg Library, which still serves the community (now from the old Morgan School campus). She sang in the choir at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and remained active for many years in the Cumberland Presbyterian Women’s organization (CPW). Vivian would probably say that her highest achievement was working with other members of the Petersburg church to establish a thriving after-school children’s program. Always the educator, she regretted during her last years that she was unable to continue helping Petersburg children by providing a safe space, much-needed snacks, and Christian education.

After Charles Neely Sanders died on March 25, 2006, Vivian remained active in the church and community for many years. She is survived by four children—Mary Ruth Sanders Pollock of Deland, Florida; John Charles Sanders of Petersburg, Tennessee; Thomas Finis Sanders of Sewanee, Tennessee; and James Robert Sanders of Carrboro, North Carolina; eleven grandchildren—Jessica Sanders English, Jason Sanders, Katherine Sanders Burk, Rachel Clements, Rhianna Shabsin, Dorothy Vivian Sanders, Ian Sanders, Mern Sanders, Laurel Sanders, Zeb Sanders, and Jordan Sanders; and eight great-grandchildren—Maggie English, Charles Burk, Hannah Sanders, Patrick Sanders, Olivia Sanders, Wilson Clements, Joseph Clements, and Robin Kingsbury. Vivian gloried in her large family and considered the spouses of her children and grandchildren to be her children, too: they are Valerie Sanders, Lynn Sanders, Andrea Sanders, Katherine Barnard, Daniel Burk, Melanie Sanders, Tim English, Chris Pollock, Chris Grant, Kelly Ann Graff, Bethany Stackhouse, and Jeremy Kingsbury.

The family will host a memorial service at 4 p.m. on Saturday, November 4, 2023, at the Petersburg Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Memorial Donations may be made to The Petersburg Cumberland Presbyterian Church Scholarship Fund, Attn: Ann Hemphill, P.O. Box 82, Petersburg, TN 37144, or Petersburg Community Cultural Coalition, Attn: Mike Cheatham, 662 Petersburg Chestnut Ridge Road, Petersburg, TN  37144.

Higgins Funeral Home is honored to serve the family of Vivian Jones Sanders.