PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — David Cornelius Sanderson was born to God-fearing parents Joseph and Esther Sanderson, in the boiling summer heat of Phoenix, Arizona, August 15, 1939. He was the brother of Barbara Hunter, of Fresno, Ca., and the late Joseph Sanderson of Riverside, Ca.
After leaving the Army, Dave enrolled at Glendale Community College in California.
During his time in Hawaii, Dave met Joyce O’Brien in 1967, and they were soon married at St Patrick’s Church in Kaimuki, in the Shadow of Diamondhead. They welcomed their first child Daniel in 1968, born under a palm tree at Leeward Oahu Hospital, in Aiea.The Sandersons were then transferred to HQ in Glendale and lived in La Tuna Canyon, Tujunga, Ca. Once again surrounded by family, they lived for 3 years and welcomed two daughters, Kathleen and Diane, both born at St Joseph’s Hospital where Dave’s mother Esther, now affectionately known as Ama, worked as a dietician.
In 1973 with three kids under 5, Dave and Joyce moved to Newport, RI and lived on Ruggles Avenue and their fourth child Mary was born. Just one year later in 1974, the family moved again to Dover, New Hampshire, close to Dave’s work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Dave and Joyce purchased 8 acres of the former Twin River Farm overlooking the Piscatiqua River, and settled into a large farmhouse there.
He bought a dump truck and struck a deal with a local lightning rod company to clear land for them, the agreement being he could keep all the wood he cleared. Dave and his neighbor, Wayne worked most weekends for 2 years, cutting, hauling, splitting and storing wood to heat their homes.
Dave farmed the land, growing all manner of vegetables, the primary crop being corn, which they ate and sold and gave away to those in need. He raised turkeys and chickens, repaired and operated the 1919 Fordson Tractor that came with the farm, and harvested the fruit of apple and pear orchards every season which Joyce turned in to pies and jams for family and friends and anyone who could use them.
In 1979 the government’s needs moved the Sandersons again — this time back to Aquidneck Island. Dave, having known the Island since the early 1960s, saw an opportunity to raise his family in Portsmouth, settling into his last home on the north end of the island, in Common Fence Point. The Sandersons’ fifth child Helen was born in Newport, 1980.
Dave and Joyce raised their kids to understand the importance of commitment, community, family, and love. Their door was always open to all the family’s friends; no one was ever turned away. The laughter and love from the family home spilled into the streets and far beyond. At the center was Dave’s steady and principled approach to life, coupled with a real joy for living.
Dave became involved in coaching sports and coached youth football teams and high school teams during the 80s and 90s. He worked hardest on behalf of the kids who had the least to offer, going out of his way to invite them to play, get them to practice, ensure they had the necessary equipment and “mental toughness” to the benefit of the team. Through heavy recruitment efforts, Dave put together one of the largest freshman football rosters the school ever had. His mantra, “We Hit!,” was adopted enthusiastically by his players, “the ’89 Bunch.”
Dave retired in 1995 at age 56. He was able to enjoy many pursuits – traveling, building and most importantly fishing. His first grandchild Haley was born in 1997 and she would frequently accompany him over the years to his favorite fishing hole, Taylor’s Point.
Dave and Joyce had 5 more grandchildren, Laura, Kathleen, Isabella, Jack and Joe, all of whom share fun memories of their Papa, who they could always rely upon to fix anything.
All 5 of Dave and Joyce’s children and all 6 of their grandchildren reside in Newport County again, and all the children, their spouses and grandchildren were with Dave at Charlton Memorial when he breathed his last, April 4, 2018.
Calling hours will be held on Tuesday, April 10 from 4:00pm-7:00pm in the Connors Funeral Home, 55 West Main Rd, Portsmouth.