Obituary: Mary Frances Sanders

Beloved great-grandmother, artist, musician, animal lover

Mary Frances Sanders died on July 24 in Carlsbad, California, where she had lived for 23 years. She was 93.

Mary was born August 31, 1925. She and her husband of 66 years, David Scott Sanders, who preceded her in death, moved to Carlsbad from Claremont following Mr. Sanders’ retirement from Harvey Mudd College.

The Sanders family lived in Claremont for 34 years, with a brief three-year interval in Potsdam, New York in the early 1970s.

Mary Frances was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of Wilbur Deyo Finch and Marie Louise Shade. She graduated from Los Angeles High School and attended UCLA, earning her bachelor’s degree in geography in 1947. She met her husband at UCLA, and they married in February 1948.

Over the next seven years, while her husband completed his PhD in English and the couple’s first two children, Scott and Bonnie, were born, the couple lived in Los Angeles, with one year in Ojai, California, before moving back to LA and graduate housing on the UCLA campus.

In 1956 the family drove across the country to College Park, Maryland, where Mr. Sanders began his first academic appointment at the University of Maryland. While in Maryland, the couple’s third child, Peter, was born.

In 1959 the family returned to Southern California and Claremont for the first of two appointments Mr. Sanders held at Harvey Mudd College. From 1970 to 1973, the family lived in Potsdam, New York, where he was chair of the humanities department at Clarkson College. The family returned to Claremont and Harvey Mudd in 1973.

Beginning in the late seventies, the family would drive across the country to their summer house, a “camp” as it was called there, at Lake Ozonia in New York’s Adirondack State Park, some miles from Potsdam. For more than 20 years they enjoyed summers of fishing, boating, swimming, birding and relaxing on the deck at their lake house.

For Mrs. Sanders, Southern California was the unquestioned familial center, the emotional lodestone that, wherever they wandered, always pulled her and her family with her, to return.

Through these decades, she occasionally worked part time as a research assistant for one or another of her husband’s academic colleagues, but whatever else she did, she always worked full time as a wife and mother whose love for her husband and children (and later for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren) was constant and strong.

She was a creative person, involved in the arts in many ways. She sang and performed in college. In the early sixties she learned to play the guitar and sing folk songs, often doing so with her family in the evenings. Later in life, she worked for many years with stained glass, creating a variety of original pieces, many of which now adorn the houses of her children.

She loved the company of animals. As a child, the roster of family pets included some ducks, a few cats, and many, many dogs. When her children were young there were some rabbits, the odd gerbil or hamster, a few cats, but especially and always there were dogs, first dachshunds, one fleeting beagle, and then bassets, who were the favored canines in her household for decades.

She promoted the discovery and growth of her children’s talents. She encouraged her older son to learn to play guitar and sing, which he did. When her daughter took up figure skating, she  became a lifelong fan of the sport, watching and critiquing every televised figure skating event she could find, even into the last months of her life. When her younger son played baseball, she cheered for him, though she was not a baseball fan, and probably saw no more than a couple professional games, if that, in her life.

She is survived by her three children, Scott, Bonnie, and Peter; six grandchildren, Jennifer, Susannah, Cory, Tristan, Madeline and Hope; and six great-grandchildren, James, Ruby, Wolf, Delaney, Owen and Amelia.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the David Scott and Mary Frances Sanders Fund for Experiential Learning at Harvey Mudd College at


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