Friends, colleagues and family members gathered at Northwest College’s Cabre Gym on Wednesday to say goodbye to Calvin Sanders, a longtime firefighter, businessman and Little League umpire.
Sanders, 51, died on March 27 following a 19-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Calvin simply wanted to be remembered for his integrity, for being kind-hearted, for giving everyone a fair shake and for being a positive influence on youth athletes,” his sister, Melanie Sanders-Smith, said during Wednesday’s eulogy. “After reading and hearing the many tributes to him ... I feel confident that this is exactly how this community will remember Calvin.”
Mourners from across the state traveled to Cabre Gym for Sanders’ memorial service, followed by interment at Crown Hill Cemetery. Speakers and longtime friends Joey Darrah and Greg Anderson shared stories of Sanders from over the years, some funny, some touching and all illustrating who Sanders was and why he touched so many.
“It was overwhelming, the amount of support he received,” said Sanders’ brother Steve of Powell.
Sanders’ daughters, Bailey and Nicole, shared memories of growing up in the Sanders household, with their father Calvin and mother Jodie. Calvin called Jodie his “rock,” and “she provided comfort and strength through his darkest days,” Sanders-Smith said.
Also providing strength and comfort were Bailey and Nicole, who became his biggest cheering section during multiple rounds of chemotherapy.
“He [Calvin] was proud of them every single day for what they were achieving and who they had become,” Sanders-Smith said of Bailey and Nicole, adding, “These girls were his pride and joy.”
A last radio call for the former Powell fire chief and a firing party concluded the interment, with Anderson presenting Sanders’ chief’s helmet to the family. Past and present members of the Powell Volunteer Fire Department filed by the casket saying silent prayers, followed by mourners who placed flowers on the casket.
Sanders served with the Powell Volunteer Fire Department from 1992 to 2008, becoming chief after five years with the department. He served in that capacity for six years, battling some of Powell’s largest fires and leading the charge for the funding of the current Powell fire hall.
“He was quick to admit that he enjoyed the adrenaline rushes that came with firefighting,” Sanders-Smith said.
Following his retirement from the fire department, Sanders began volunteering for Powell Little League, becoming a respected umpire. As umpire-in-chief for Wyoming District 1, Sanders trained many of the umpires in the district.
In 2013, Sanders was recognized for his years of hard work and dedication to Little League baseball, chosen to represent the West Region as an umpire at the Little League World Series regional qualifying tournament in San Bernardino, California.
“Calvin was well on his way to umpiring at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, until cancer changed the direction of his life,” Smith-Sanders said. “At all levels, the players respected Calvin as much as he respected them, and he taught them the game, and helped them have fun playing it.”
Sanders was on hand last summer when the Powell Majors All-Stars won the District 1 Championship, handing out the championship medals to the players.
“If it wasn’t for Calvin Sanders, these boys might not even be playing baseball,” Powell head coach Heath Worstell said at the time. “He’s done so much for our baseball program, people have no idea.”
As an employee and eventual owner of Sanders Plumbing and Heating, Sanders enjoyed going out on service calls because it helped him build relationships within the community. He and his brother Steve worked together for over three decades, a partnership that worked well over the years.
“I take great pride in being able to say that we did that; not many people can do that, but we managed to do it,” Steve said. “He had his department of the business, and I had my department of the business, and we worked well together.”
Sanders especially enjoyed the heating and cooling side of the business, and was determined to never let a problem get the best of him.
“He was one of the best heating guys around,” Steve said. “If he couldn’t figure something out, he kind of took it personally until he could figure it out. Once he wrapped his brain around it, he was determined he was going to figure it out. And most of the time, he did.”
As for Sanders’ legacy in the community, Steve said he hopes his brother is remembered as an example of how to treat people and how to give back.
“At work, we like to treat everybody fair and right, and if you do that, you have a customer for life,” Steve said. “Treat people fair, and right and honest. That’s what he [Calvin Sanders] did.”