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Viola Sanders

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Viola Sanders Obituary
Capt. Viola Sanders


Capt. Viola Brown Sanders, USN Ret., 92, passed away at her home in Greenwood Sunday April 28, 2013. Funeral services are 2 P.M. Wednesday May 1, 2013 at the Sidon United Methodist Church with interment in the Sidon cemetery. Rev. Glenn Seefeld will officiate. Visitation will be from 1-2 Wednesday at the Church.

Viola was born to John Stansbury and Viola Brown Sanders in Sidon and had been a longtime resident there prior to moving to Greenwood several years ago. At age 22 a phone call led her to a career that would take her around the world and to the top of her field.

A graduate of Greenwood High School, "Pinky" , as she was affectionately known by family and friends, went on to Sunflower Jr. College where she was named Miss Sunflower Jr. College and named to the Hall of Fame. She continued at Delta State Teachers College where she was head cheerleader, and graduated with a degree in English.

While later teaching 7th Grade English in Glenn Allan, her life path changed dramatically when her brother, Stanny, a young Naval Officer, called from New Orleans to tell her of great opportunities developing for women in the Navy. Shortly thereafter in 1942, Viola was sworn into the service by her brother and ultimately rose to the rank of Captain-at that time the highest office for a woman in the Navy.

From New Orleans, Ensign Sanders proceeded to Officer Candidate School and was promoted to Regimental Commander of the WAVES. This was followed by a three year tour of duty serving on the staff of U. S. Naval Forces in Japan. While there, she had the experience of climbing Mt. Fuji.

Viola returned to Washington D. C. as administrative officer to Admiral Richard E. Byrd as part of the International Geophysical Year. In 1960, she represented her military branch in Copenhagen at the first NATO Conference for Women.

In her distinguished career, Captain Sanders was recipient of the United Nations Korean and National Defense Service medals and Legion of Merit Award. She was also honored at Arlington with a chair in the theater at the National Women in Military Service Memorial and was named to Who's Who of American Women.

In 1966, Viola retired and returned to her roots in Sidon, took over management of the family farm Elder Grove, and began an active life in the Mississippi Delta. She served on the board of Delta State University, the board of Cottonlandia, and the Board of Trustees of Sidon Methodist Church. She was a member of American Legion Post 29 and enthusiastically worked on the Veteran's Monument Committee from concept to completion in 1999.

Other recognitions were being named alumnus of the year by both Mississippi Delta Junior College and Delta State University. She was named Outstanding Citizen of Leflore County by the Lions Club, and named into the Greenwood Hall of Fame by the Chamber of Commerce. The Greenwood City Council honored her with a street bearing her name. A highlight in her life, also, was being selected Grand Marshal of the 2007 Greenwood Christmas Parade.

The family takes great pride in the accomplishments of Captain Sanders. The family also has great love for "Pinky" Sanders, whose passion for family, God, church, Sidon, golf, bridge, poetry, Elder Grove, Bible stories, troll stories, dancing the jitterbug, doing the Mississippi Shuffle, and insistence that all children make straight A's on report cards, will be sweetly ingrained in our memories forever.

She was preceded in death by her parents, a brother, John Stansbury Sanders, Jr. and his wife Janie and a niece Margaret Viola "Peggy" Sanders Sparkman.

Survivors include; two nieces, Penny Sanders Varner (Mack) of Vicksburg, MS, Mary Sanders Hughes (Bobby) of St. Louis, MO, seven great nieces, Betsy Varner McIntire (Troy) of Hattiesburg, MS, Emily Varner Shelton(David) of Oxford, MS, Mary Margaret Sparkman (Jay Fraiser) of Atlanta, GA, Sally Sparkman Rabinowitz (Jason) of Pensacola, FL, Janie Sparkman of Pensacola, FL, Margo Hughes Cook (Shane) of St. Louis, MO, and Julie Hughes of St. Louis, MO, 9 great-great nieces and nephews and many beloved cousins.

Graveside military honors will be provided by American Legion Post #29.

Memorials may be made to the Sidon Cemetery Association, P.O Box 125, Sidon, MS 38954 or the .

An online guestbook may be signed at

Published in Clarion Ledger on May 1, 2013
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