Sandra Leona Sanders
1952 - 2020
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Sandra L. Sanders
Mar. 23, 1952 ~ Oct. 12, 2020
Sandra Leona Watkins Sanders passed quietly and sweetly into the comfort of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, at 1:00 PM on Monday, October 12 at her Salt Lake City home, with her husband Clifton, her son Nathaniel Thomas and a small group of friends at her bedside.
Sandra was born in Merced CA as Martha Colleen Woods to Dorothy Woods and was the second oldest of six children. Very soon after her birth she was adopted and taken to Los Angeles CA, where she grew up. Among her early memories was winning an award in Sunday School for reciting the 23rd Psalm, which became her favorite Scripture and comfort throughout her entire life.
Sandra attended three junior high schools, graduating from Henry Clay Jr High School in 1967, and she received her high school diploma from George Washington Preparatory High School in 1970. Shortly thereafter she entered the University of California at Los Angeles, but she soon left, citing a desire to 'know people more than books'. She worked odd jobs and took to the streets, dabbled in recreational drugs, hitchhiked and traveled as far south as Meridian MS and eventually ended up in Detroit MI where she settled for a time. After witnessing the murder of her boyfriend she returned to Los Angeles, and shortly thereafter she began hitchhiking north to San Francisco, where she eventually rededicated her life to Jesus and was baptized by members of the Shiloh Youth Revival ministry, at that time a nationwide Christian evangelistic outreach organization headquartered in Eugene OR. She found her new family of young ministers who had a passion for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and she was trained as an evangelist at the Eugene OR headquarters. She was sent out to New Haven CT as a tentmaker evangelist, working at the Chart House restaurant and living at a group house with other Shiloh ministers. She later moved to Ohio for another mission call and in 1977 she came to join the evangelism team in Park City, UT. She then moved to Phoenix AZ. She met her future husband Clifton while on a visit to Salt Lake City UT. Shortly thereafter she moved to Salt Lake City, found work at the University of Utah, and she served at Calvary Chapel of Salt Lake City in many capacities: church greeter, boarding house deaconess, playing guitar in worship and small group meetings, and on several evangelistic teams from church and in partnership with other ministries.
After attending Horizon School of Evangelism in San Diego CA from 1982-83, Sandra returned to Salt Lake City, and she and Clifton were married at Calvary Chapel on April 1, 1984. in addition to lots of fun, struggles and adventures with her husband Clifton, Sandra managed the former Christian Embassy bookstore (on Main Street) for a year, and she was part of the support team for the fledgling Utah Institute for Biblical Studies, assisting with registration and bookkeeping. She attended Salt Lake Community College from 1986-87 and she received recognition for her leadership in the SLCC Chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ. She also continued her work with Calvary Chapel of Salt Lake as a Sunday School teacher and church planter who assisted Pastor David Stewart with the startup of Southwest Calvary Chapel.
In 1991 Sandra enrolled at the University of Utah and she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1996. She was on the bowling team for 4 years, receiving an MVP at one of the club tournaments. She was also Vice President of the Black Student Union, and she was on the core student team that persuaded University of Utah faculty to adopt a Diversity Requirement as part of the General Education curriculum--one of the earliest higher education institutions in Utah to do so--which has since impacted tens of thousands of students and paved the way for advancing equity, diversity and inclusivity in Utah. Sandra was never much of a talker, but her gentle, welcoming and persistent influence, confident and straightforward knowledge of her Bible, and penchant for pithy 'one liners' full of wisdom are the touchstones and hallmarks of her remarkable life. Her legacy truly demonstrates the powerful fruit of her desire to "'know people more than books".
Sandra started what became a 20-year career as a tax analyst for H&R Block in 1997. In that same year Sandra and Clifton adopted their son Nathaniel, who is unquestionably their proudest achievement, enduring light of their lives and their true 'gift from God.' Nathaniel was the joyful focus of their lives and avocations, never being far from their musical journeys with Soul Patrol, the G Brown Quintet, their wife and husband performing duo (which Sandra named 'Urban Bush'), home audio recordings of Sandra's guitar arrangements, along with church, school activities and family fun. Also, during that time Sandra found and reconnected with her biological mother, Dorothy, and attended several reunions of her extended Merriman Family until 2015.
Starting in 2006 with severe injuries from being hit in an intersection by a careless driver, Sandra began to experience a series of major health challenges: 2 treatment courses for hepatitis C, congestive heart failure, and kidney failure brought on by systemic scleroderma which led to her death. During this 14-year journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Psalm 23 was more than comfort to Sandra. Everyone who encountered her during those years came away with stories of her remarkable graciousness, serenity, optimism, deep faith, always with concern for others more than herself. During her recovery from the car accident, Sandra took up photography from her wheelchair at her front door--she has since posted thousands of pictures of sky, birds, mountains, waterfalls and all kinds of nature scenes on her 'Guitbowl', Facebook and YouTube websites. She learned to play banjo, which she enjoyed very much and played at church and private gatherings. She was fiercely independent, even against the ravages of her body, which only minimally restricted her from living a robust life. She did housework, cooking, managing all of her health needs except those requiring occasional assistance, keeping records, paying household bills, and corresponding with friends and acquaintances via social media, etc. until the last week of her life. Early on in a mercifully quick hospice time, she continually asked Nathaniel and Clifton 'Are you sure you are going to be alright?' Even in facing death with calm resolve, she was who she always was--concerned about others (including her outstanding Cardiology care team at the University of Utah).
Sandra is preceded in death by her mother Dorothy, her older brother Bernard, her younger brother Darren and younger sister Karla, all from her birth family. She is survived by her husband Clifton, and son Nathaniel Thomas. She leaves behind brother in law David Maurice Sanders, who lived in the Sanders household during the last eight years of her life, her Merriman family out of Merced CA, her Sanders/Branch/Howard/Delpino relatives from Maryland, her Heikkila family from MO, her beloved Shiloh ministry friends who helped her grow in her faith and witness, numerous close friends from Calvary Chapel, Resurrection Fellowship, and her beloved Mountain Springs Community Church, who loved, served and supported her and her family for the past 14 years with deep affection, tender care, sacrificial acts of charity, and the pink plastic flamingos that touched Sandra's heart at the beginning and end of her sojourn there. She and her dearest friend Holly DeVries loved their 'back row ministry' with 'fist bumps' for kids young and old, and Sandra adored her precious Wednesday Bible Study Sisters. In addition, Sandra leaves behind dozens of spiritual daughters, former Sunday School kids, short- and long-term missionaries she has supported directly or reduced her tax fees so others could, several godchildren and a wealth of colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors, mentor/teachers and present and future web friends. Special thanks to Pastor Peter DeVries of Mountain Springs Community Church, and to all her health care and hospice staff and specialists at the Kolff Dialysis Clinic, University of Utah Cardiology and associated staff throughout the hospital, Huntsman Cancer Center, CNS Home Health Care Services, Fresenius Medical Care, Accredo Specialty Pharmacy, St. Marks Medical Center, Intermountain Health Care, and the superb staff at Larkin Sunset Lawn Mortuary. Links to Sandra's Facebook site, containing additional narratives, photos and videos about her life, and her YouTube page can be found at
Due to COVID-19, Clifton and Nathaniel have chosen to say farewell to Sandra in a small private ceremony on Monday, October 26. Sandra will be buried at Larkin Sunset Lawn Cemetery, 2350 E 1300 S, Salt Lake City UT 84108. A celebration of her life is planned for Spring 2021 when COVID restrictions are, hopefully, lifted. Nathaniel (N8) picked a great gravesite location, with a wonderful view of the mountains to the east and the Salt Lake Valley to the west. When you come to visit Sandra bring your camera so that she can teach you how to take pictures like she did. In lieu of additional flowers, please feel free to make donations in Sandra's name to the Scleroderma Foundation ( or any charity that provides relief to the poor during COVID, and to charities and organizations that provide emotional and spiritual support to our wonderful heath care workers.

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Published in The Salt Lake Tribune on Oct. 25, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
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5 entries
November 10, 2020
Thank you Clifton for letting me know of Sandra's passing into God's presence. She was always gracious, fun, loving, kind and encouraging. May you find comfort knowing she is with her Lord.
Sandra Tanner
October 29, 2020

I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like Sandra had an incredible journey in life both good and bad. This is what life is about. We don't know where it takes us or where the Lord leads us. You and your son are in my prayers. I lost my mother earlier in life than I thought. It takes time to heal. I don't know if we ever really do heal over losing those we love the most. I am glad you are taking the term to reflect and take care of yourself.
Judy Braun
October 29, 2020
Thank you for sharing Sandra's amazing life story. What an incredible person! Clifton and Nathaniel, we are so very sorry for your loss and our love and thoughts are with you.
Cherie & Preston Lindhardt
October 28, 2020
I'm so very sorry for your loss. Sandra was clearly an amazing woman and I hope you will feel comforted at this difficult time.
Allison Fernley
October 26, 2020
While I never knew your wife, this tribute touched me deeply. What an amazing woman. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers!
Kevin Dustin
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