Mr. Saunders, 97, beloved father, grandfather and great-grandfather of Social Circle, GA, died peacefully at home on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, having once again, as was customary throughout his rich and full life, surpassed all expectations by living for nearly 20 months after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
Born in Gaston County, North Carolina, to the late Eula R. Sherrill and the late Wade Hopkins Saunders, Earl was the youngest of four siblings. Earl’s sense of duty and love of family shone not only in his words, but also in his actions. Shortly after learning his brother, Everett, died in service during World War II, and with his parents’ blessing, Earl voluntarily enlisted in the United States Army on October 28, 1943, at the age of 17. During his service, he received a medal for good conduct and received an honorable discharge on October 27, 1945.
With the benefit of the GI bill, Earl attended Clemson University in South Carolina. While in school, Earl went to the wedding of his good friend and Clemson roommate, Dave Maney, in May of 1951. Serving as the best man, Earl met and danced with the maid of honor, Ms. Peggy Pope, of Valdese, North Carolina. The two began a romance that would blossom and endure for decades to come. During his courtship of Peggy, Earl graduated from Clemson University on June 3, 1951, with a bachelor’s of science. He started working in the insurance industry as a fire safety inspector and engineer, traveling across the Carolinas to survey buildings. He stayed in touch with Peggy via letter, sometimes arriving in a new city for work to find one of her letters already waiting on him. Proving the adage “when you know, you know,” on December 21, 1951, seven months after they met, Earl and Peggy married.
After starting their family, Earl and Peggy moved to the Coulwood Community in Charlotte, North Carolina, where neighbors were the sort of folks that became lifelong friends. Earl coached little league and was responsible for keeping the community center’s jukebox stocked with the newest music on 45 records. Earl was a beloved coach and continued to mentor young people off the field during his decades-long career at Kemper Insurance.
Earl took Peggy and the kids on many camping adventures across the Carolinas. A family favorite was Indian Creek Campground in Cherokee, North Carolina, where in 1969 the family first hiked Mount LeConte in the Smoky Mountains. After returning with all his grandchildren to do the hike again in 1995, Earl summited Mount LeConte once again in 2010 at the age of 84 – going more than 13 miles on foot roundtrip with an entourage of children, grandchildren, and extended family, who all smiled and laughed, even when it began to snow and sleet during the outing.
Earl remained young at heart and close with his family and friends. His career took him and the family from North Carolina down to metro Atlanta in 1971, when the family moved to Alpharetta, Georgia. Later, retirement beckoned Earl and Peggy to escape the burgeoning Atlanta suburbs for the idyllic countryside in Social Circle, where they relocated in 2004. On a quiet spot of land overlooking cattle pastures and surrounded by pine trees and muscadine vines, Earl passed his time enjoying Sunday suppers with family and friends, while making sure to partake in as many rounds of golf as he could.
He was preceded in death by his wife: Peggy Pope Saunders; his sisters: Frances Smith and Margaret Parker; and his brother: Everett Saunders.
Earl is survived by his sons: Everett Saunders, Steve Saunders (Libby); daughter: Cynthia Saunders Stewart; grandchildren: Joshua Saunders (Brian Basinger), Sarah Saunders (Adam Childs), Rachel Jean (Rob), Lacey Saunders (Joe Huston); and great-grandchildren: Riverly Jean, River Huston, and Noah Huston.
Visitation will be held on Monday, January 22, 2024, at Meadows Funeral Home in Monroe, Georgia, from 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Funeral services will be held at 2:00 pm on Thursday, January 25, 2024, at McLean’s Belmont Chapel in Belmont, North Carolina. Interment will follow in Hollywood Cemetery, Gastonia.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to a charity of your choice, or to the Jekyll Island Foundation.
Reposted courtesy of Meadows Funeral Home.