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"One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters."

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     by Dixie A. Walter: In honor of Father's Day we offer this tribute to Joe Sander written by one of his protégés, George Venn, a retired member of the English faculty at Eastern Oregon University. George is also a prize-winning author and poet. You can find out more about George on his web site - Home - George Venn.
     Joe was married to Betty Sander, a familiar face in Eatonville's Town Hall for many years, where she worked for the court.
Joe and Betty were married 64 years when he passed away at 89 years old. He would have been 90 March 21, 2015 and would have been married 65 years July 2, 2015. A long and productive life well lived.
    Asked to explain his relationship to the Van Eatons, George replied, “My Van Eaton connection is simple: John Van Eaton married Elsie Boettcher. She was my father Ernest Fyfe's cousin. Elsie's mother, Peggy Fyfe Boettcher, was my aunt. Elsie Boettcher's father, Ernest Boettcher, was my uncle. So, Tom, Terry, Pat, and Joan Van Eaton are all my second cousins.”
    As you will discover, George was a close friend of the Sander family and wrote the eulogy for Joe's memorial in January 2015. It is filled with moving memories of Joe and Betty Sander along with stories from their kids. Kids who all graduated from Eatonville High School and became successful adults. What more can a parent ask for?
   Although somewhat taciturn, Joe was an extremely creative man and a kind one. In a Facebook post after Joe's death on January 7, 2015 Mark Parton wrote, “A great pillar to our community. I remember Joe retrieving a cat from one of the tall Douglas firs behind our house. R.I.P. Joe.”
    See George's homage to Joe below. If you didn't know Joe when he worked in Eatonville you will wish you had known him after reading George's wonderful history of the Sander family and Joe's dedication to that family.

Joe Sander: A Tribute


 1965 photo of Joe after a day of logging at Pack Forest courtesy of George Venn.

by George Venn
To honor Joe Sander, the following eulogy was invited by the Sander family. The text is composed of multiple sources: census data, Sander children's memories, Joe and Rod Scurlock’s book Old Alder, Hazel Mayo’s diaries, the author’s poems and journals, and his memories of the four summers as a Sander employee. To avoid needless angst, the Sander children requested that this eulogy not be read by Joe or Betty prior to Joe’s death, but they did approve it being read aloud at Joe’s memorial service January 24, 2015, at Eatonville Baptist Church.
Joe’s father was Carl Martin Sander (1887-1970), a young German who emigrated to the United States at age 19, became a railroad boilermaker, and married a Burlington, Iowa girl named Elizabeth (1893-1973). Both Joe’s parents spoke fluent German, and both learned to read and write English apparently without extensive formal education.

While living in Iowa, the newly-weds started their family–two sons who became Joe’s older brothers: firstborn Carl Jr. arrived in 1910 when his mother was 17, and, second born Paul arrived in 1911 when his mother was 18. Sometime after 1910, the Sanders read advertisements that Seattle shipyards were hiring workers to build war ships, so with their two oldest boys, the Sanders headed west by train.
After living briefly in Alki Point–the dock workers slums–they read Weyerhaeuser advertisements offering low interest loans to anyone who wanted to buy their logged off land. Worthless to the timber giant but a homestead quest come true for the landless, Carl and Marie Sander signed the Weyerhaeuser loan papers and moved to Alder where they built a house and started clearing the stumps and brush by hand.

There, the young family continued to grow: Joe’s older sister Betty was born in 1920, and his younger sister Joanne came in 1927–two years after Joe was born in Eatonville March 21,1925. At his birth, his parents were middle-aged–father 38, his mother 32. So Joe was the youngest son in a family of six–a little brother with three older siblings to follow around, to care for him, to trust, to learn from, to love, and hard-working German-American homesteading parents to provide food and fuel and shelter in the logged off timberlands west of Mt. Rainier National Park.
The Old Alder book shows that the Sanders lived in a wood frame house on the hillside above the road between Tacoma and Mt. Rainier. A mile west of the Alder townsite, the family operated a gas station at the east end of Nisqually Canyon, paid their mortgage, and like many of their neighbors, slowly transformed their stumpland to pasture, gardens, orchards, farmland. During the 1920s in the Alder community, Joe’s father–a stocky, strong, hard-working logger–hearing damaged by boilermaking–was nicknamed “Blackie” and his whispering could easily be heard across the creek.
As a child, Joe sometimes went with his Dad to the Suderburg store in Old Alder. He liked to see the stuffed little black bear that stood behind the front door. Around 1931, as The Depression got worse, Suderburgs closed, and took home some of their remaining marketable inventory and useable store equipment, including the platform scale. One day at Suderburg’s house, Joe’s father Carl–known as a practical joker–was telling storekeeper and friend Elmer Suderburg about the heaviness of his new wool mackinaw. Suderburg said, “Let’s weigh it on the platform scale.”

As they all walked to the scale in the back bedroom, Joe’s dad slipped two andirons from the stove into the large mackinaw pockets–each andiron probably weighing two pounds or more. When an incredulous Suderburg read the impossible weight, Joe always remembered the loud hearty side-splitting laughter that burst from both his straight-faced father and the duped storekeeper.
A homemaker and housewife, Joe’s mother Elizabeth, whose volume was normal, acquired the family nickname “Liddie.” As a child, Joe must have heard this dramatic difference in parental volume: while he had to shout to make his father hear while logging or building or farming, for the rest of his life, Joe nearly always spoke quietly, politely, more like Liddie than Blackie, and he also admired and emulated some of his mother’s other feminine skills–including crocheting. We can celebrate Joe’s unusual sensitivity that shaped his character; he would never become the stereotyped macho logger.
Before entering Alder grade school, a major event forever changed Joe’s life. One afternoon in 1928, his older brother Paul didn’t come home from work. Paul had been killed while dynamiting stumps in Ashford. At 17, Paul’s death undoubtedly cast a dark shadow over the Sander family, and may have permanently affected Joe, Paul’s three-year old brother.

As he grew up, Joe would likely have learned more completely how Paul died– Maybe from youthful impatience or ignorance? Maybe from incaution with powder or fuse or blasting caps? From that tragedy, I suggest that Joe internalized a strong sense of caution, of self-protection, of safety. Logging is one of the two most dangerous professions. Even with a hard hat, caulked boots, stagged pants, heavy gloves, a raincoat, and a black lunch pail, Joe knew he could go to work one morning and never come home again.
In the four summers I worked for Joe doing selective logging in Pack Forest, we always took extra measures against fire, cleared brush to make escape routes while felling trees, studied trees for widowmakers before cutting, carefully handled the chainsaw gas, avoided logs in the tongs, stayed behind yarded logs, avoided taut cables that could snap and kill you. Years later, I still remembered some of Joe’s ironic cautions to his novice helper, and I recorded them in a poem:

  A logger never turns his back on a log –
 you'll never hear it start to roll.
 Of course, all a log can do is kill you
 – so don't worry about it now.
 If you're going to get hurt in the woods,
 do it after lunch. Why waste the whole day?

So we can celebrate Joe’s keen awareness of danger in the woods, a characteristic that also served him well for the 50 years he worked as a lineman for Alder Mutual Light and for the 15 years he worked for Eatonville Power and Light.

During the summers I worked for Joe, I watched him always probe for rot with a bar around the base of a power pole before he ever strapped on his spurs to climb, and when he learned how linemen had been killed by rotten poles falling on them, he told Betty, “If it goes, I’m going to jump.” And he did. Twice. And he lived. Injured, he recovered. Eye surgery afterward was better than being dead. That sense of caution even extended to home electrical appliances: before leaving for a trip to town, Joe would unplug lamps, heaters– anything with dubious cords, switches, receptacles. (I wondered if he suspected an electrical fire had started the Sanders’ home fire in 1940.)
Another characteristic to celebrate in Joe was his sense of enduring friendship. In grade school pictures from the Great Depression, Joe always stands in the back row. In the 1938 photo, he’s the tallest boy in his seventh grade class, and he stands in the back row with his two lifelong friends.

Those three Alder boys were together from first through eighth grade. The only boys in their class, they were together so much that they became known as the “Three Musketeers:” Joe Sander, Dave Thureson, and Rod Scurlock. Throughout the ensuing 77 years, they maintained their early camaraderie, and Joe and Rod dedicated their book Old Alder to that bond and to Dave Thureson, the first to pass away.
Finishing eighth grade with the “Three Musketeers" in Alder in 1940, Joe was a freshman at Eatonville High School when the Sanders’ wood-frame house burned to the ground. His oldest brother Carl working in north Idaho, his next oldest brother deceased, his father working full time, his mother and two sisters with no place to live, at 15 Joe took his first major step in what became another lifelong characteristic: he would solve the problem himself. He would build his parents and sisters a new house. Out of stone. A house that would not burn.

With World War II beginning, Joe withdrew from high school and went to work: every night, he once told me, he went to the Nisqually River to choose, load, and haul home the right-sized stones. By hand, he built wood slip forms, filled them with a layer of stone, covered them with hand-mixed concrete mortar, placed another layer of stones, covered them with more fresh mortar, tamped it down, let it set up over night, raised the forms higher the next day. Repeat the process. Add windows and doors, a good cedar roof.

A labor of love, a monument to ingenuity, that “Rock House” still stands by Highway 7. As a teenager then, we can celebrate Joe Sander’s loyalty–not only to his school buddies but also to his family. He took on the responsibilities of a family man, faithful son, craftsman, builder. In those years, he even shot a black bear with his old .22 rifle; the bear had killed two calves on the Sander farm.
Even before the Great Depression, Carl and Elizabeth Sander would have taught and practiced the many arts of self-sufficiency and subsistence agriculture, so while still growing up Joe would have learned a lot about fencing, raising livestock, butchering, fertilizing, gardening, weeding, canning, wood cutting, haying, hunting, etc.

During the late 1930s and 1940s, Joe would also have learned a lot from his Dad whose logging and road building business now depended on their Caterpillar Sixty tractor–the largest crawler built at that time, and one of the first such machines in the Alder area. Learning to set chokers at an early age would have been easy, but Joe now could learn tractor operation and maintenance. After all, any repair or maintenance service was in Tacoma 30 miles away and expensive.
Possibly before 1940, when he withdrew from high school to build his parents’ new house, an innately curious Joe also began to teach himself all kinds of new technical skills–engine repair and maintenance, electricity, welding, hydraulic and mechanical systems, hand tool and power tool use: lathes, steel shapers, grinders, drill presses. Eventually, his home shop would be the most sophisticated for miles around.

I still recall the day, when we were building Joe and Betty’s new house, that one of his amazed siblings said to him, “How do you know all this stuff?” Joe replied modestly, “I don’t know. I guess I always knew it.” So, today, we can celebrate Joe’s implicit curiosity, his intelligence, his modesty, his passion for learning beyond school and family.
This broad technical self-education and willingness to share his expertise eventually earned Joe a reputation we can celebrate. As Rod Scurlock wrote, Joe “was known to the people in the Alder vicinity as Mr. Fixit. Whenever a power line was down, a water line was broken, or a motor wouldn’t run, Joe was the one they turned to [and]...if the water system pump failed, Joe had the expertise to repair that.”

As Mr. Fixit, Joe’s skill was legendary–as many here today can probably recall. In my  family, his expertise is remembered for one incident in particular: my grandfather George Mayo had just bought a new Skilsaw, but the brand new saw would only chew through lumber like a dull file. So Gramp called Joe, then met him at his garage. Joe took one look at the saw and told my grandfather: “Your blade’s in backwards.” Shocked and a little embarrassed, Gramp watched Joe reverse the blade, then cut a 2 x 4" like butter. “Fixed” was one of Joe’s favorite words. “Lazy, fat, sloppy and junk” led his critical vocabulary.
These mechanical and technical skills would find expression in various creations, but one good example of Joe’s skills would be the machine he called “The Loader”–a rubber-tired WWII Army wrecker on which Joe mounted a 16-foot movable boom, a duplex drum for mainline and haul back, multiple transmissions, levers, clutches, and who knows what else he “cobbled together” –Joe’s phrase. With that ingenious and complex machine Joe could yard, deck, and load logs to haul to the reload in Morton on the blue Ford truck, and he could complete selective cutting on Pack Forest or work anywhere else he might be hired or needed.
While the City of Tacoma was building Alder Dam and moving everyone out of the Old Alder townsite, Joe and his father designed and built a two-man stationery sawmill on forty acres Joe had purchased next to his parents’ property. An ingenious operation, the mill’s 30" head saw, carriage, cutoff saw and waste chains, were all powered by the parked yet still working gas engine of the Caterpillar Sixty. Operated on demand during winter and summer fire season, capable of cutting any except the largest logs, Joe supplied the mill with trees from the Sanders’ property, from Pack Forest, and from local private landowners or gyppo loggers.

Using his cant hook, Joe rolled a log from the skids onto the carriage, dogged it down, then, as head sawyer, he slowly moved the log back and forth through the headsaw, each pass cutting just enough slab to make the round log square. At the end of the carriage run, I, as offbearer, flipped the cant, or cut slab, onto its flat side, pushed it on steel rollers to the spinning cutoff saw where I cut the slab/cant into firewood. After falling into a hopper, the firewood was carried up a steep chute by an endless waste chain, then fell in a pile to dry, then to be sold or hauled to Joe’s new shop/garage to fire his steam heat boiler. Nothing was wasted.
By the 1960s the aging mill and accompanying planer needed regular attention to operate smoothly and accurately. As a roll cart full of heavy newly-sawn wet 2 x 6" broke through the rotting deck planks, Joe said to me,”I’m going to rebuild everything, get everything fixed up, and change that head saw, too.” However, in its time, this mill and planer supplied finished lumber to the Alder community–my grandfather’s new barn was built with rough-sawn Sander lumber–and also supplied Joe himself, who used the mill and planer outputs to build two buildings: a large shop/garage for tools, equipment repair, and maintenance, and later, a large new house for his growing family.

In particular, I recall the days in 1963 we sawed cedar 3 x 8" floor joist for the entire new house–Joe’s innovation in home construction. Years later, he told me that he’d dreamed over and over of being forced to pull rotting planks full of rusty old spikes from under a rotting house. So, today, we can still celebrate his dream of buildings that last, his design skills, his commitment to local processing. (If I remember correctly, Joe even cut and installed new diving boards at Uncle Charlie Boettcher’s pond, a favorite local place where he swam, attended church and community picnics, and ice skated during the winter. )

Love Finds Joe One Summer Morning

Joe and Betty, married for 64 years, at their iconic kitchen table. Photo courtesy of Rick Sander.

By age 25, however, Joe was mature, ripe for love. In Tacoma at 2:30 a.m. one summer morning in 1950, Joe was taking a carload of local kids to the beach when he met Betty Kimmerly. A tall, beautiful, intelligent, soft-spoken Canadian woman from Edmonton, Betty was working as a dental assistant. Courtship seems to have been short and sweet.

Love didn’t take long to make up their minds: July 2, 1950, they were married and because Joe was still finishing his garage, the newlyweds lived at the La Grande motel for two weeks after the wedding before moving into the garage apartment. So, with his aging parents living right next door in the house he built for them, Joe became a husband and father. The Sanders’ oldest daughter Judy was born October 17, 1952. Identical twins Bonnie and Barbara were born June 5, 1954. Their son Rick on September 24, 1958.

Joe's Children Remember Dad

What was life like with Joe Sander as your father? Recently the children shared some of their memories.
Judy their oldest daughter recalled: “Dad was a caring, family man who always wanted the  best for us.
Our best memories are of all the simple things we did as a family–going to Alder Lake, swimming, water-skiing, snow skiing, playing king of the mountain on the sawdust pile, riding bikes down from the lookout at Pack Forest.”
Her younger twin sister Barb elaborated: “I’m convinced that Dad wanted a basketball team, but after two births he had three girls. No worries, they are big strong girls; they can do the same things as boys – right? All three of us are still mad at him for making us help dig the post holes for the extra large cedar fence posts with a post hole digger that we could barely pick up (it is now in my barn as an antique art piece and will never be used as it was intended again by me).

He also had no reservations about teaching us how to butcher at a pretty young age. He always went out first, shot the cow and bled the animal, but the pool of blood was there for all to see when we started the skinning. It took a few years, but his three girls ended up loving to butcher. Didn't make most of the later boyfriends very comfortable, but oh well!
Saturday mornings were always dedicated to cleaning Dad’s garage. When it was complete to his satisfaction, we got to ride our bikes, which meant going around the perimeter in circles until we got dizzy. I guess I was the most tom-boyish – Dad taught me how to weld and use other tools in the garage. I still have a brass ring that he helped me make when I was about 10. I also bugged him so often that he finally built me a pottery wheel – one speed with plywood for the wheel base. I’m still into pottery and have a studio in the barn.
As Rick shared, our most fond summer memories are of the raft that Dad built and we always bragged about how fast we could get the raft and water ski boat hooked up, down to Alder Lake, and off the trailer in about five minutes. This was possible due to Dad’s ability to back up the trailer, his assignment of tasks to each kid, and meticulous follow-through.
I also have fond memories of helping Dad in the sawmill, jumping off the roof into the sawdust pile, walking around the property with him to find the new born calves, and helping Dad and Grandma sell fir cones to Weyerhaeuser. I still smell pitch when I think about climbing the trees to collect the cones.
Little brother Rick adds another lasting memory: “When I was nine, I really  wanted a motorcycle! Bad! It was a way for me to escape the small farm and go off to distant places to explore. Dad would have nothing to do with it... partly due to an older cousin of mine who was killed riding a Honda 90 motorcycle. Finally, when I was 11, Dad told me if I wanted a motorcycle, that he would help me build one from scratch.

What? I was crushed... no way was this possible. Well, over the next year, we took old parts and built a motorcycle that I enjoyed for the next four years. The only item we purchased was bearings. The engine was a rebuilt rototiller engine, the transmission was rebuilt from an old motorcycle, the shock absorbers were made from trailer springs, the clutch was made out of an old washing machine, the gears were cut from sheets of iron, the wheels were from an old boat trailer. In retrospect, this was the best lesson of my life.”
Then big sister Barb tells the “rest of the story:” Did Rick also tell you that he told Mom and Dad a phony story about sleeping out in the back forty? Instead, he and a friend rode the infamous motorcycle all the way to Puyallup at night with no headlights. As you can imagine, Dad would have been furious, but they didn't find out until about 10 years ago.

Celebrating Joe and Betty's Life Together

Joe and Betty enjoying the abundant local beauty. Photo circa 2014 courtesy Rick Sander.

Today, we can celebrate Joe and Betty’s years of successful parenting and caring for each other. They were loving and skilled collaborators with definite complimentary and traditional roles: Joe mostly worked outside–woods, power line, mill, shop, planer, barn, highway–and Betty kept order indoors–children, household, meals, accounts, bills, taxes, Alder Mutual Light records and shares, and any and all the paperwork. (They both tended the garden and raspberries.)

Betty kept track of my hours, wrote and signed all my paychecks. Building the Sanders’ new house those hot summer days in 1963, Betty always brought us big glasses of cold grape juice to cool us down, and probably some homemade cookies, too.

In the woods, Joe’s lunch bucket was always full of delicious surprises. And many afternoons  while driving home loaded with logs from Pack Forest, Joe would stop the truck in the middle of a stand of dazzling foxglove, get out his pocket knife, cut a few of those tall pink flowers, bring them back to the truck, hand the foxglove bouquet to me to hold, and say, “‘Bet’ likes these a lot.”

This is not to say that everything was always perfectly harmonious. I clearly remember the day Joe ironically complained while we were eating lunch about apparent pressure to go on family picnics. “Why do I want to go on a picnic? I’m out here in the woods on a picnic every day. A picnic don’t mean nothing to me.”

While there are probably a lot of other good stories about Joe and Betty, during the four summers I worked for the Sanders (1962-1965)–their wages paid my college tuition–the Sander’s relationship always seemed harmonious, congenial, productive. When Joe was sick or injured, Betty was always there.

Joe, Also a Dedicated Historian

When Joe decided to retire in 1987, he and Betty vacationed all over:  Australia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the United States. He also took up a whole new range of projects. Continuing his love of local stories and photographs, he became fully engaged with producing Old Alder (2011), a fine 190 page collection of old photographs, captions, and texts that people will always find valuable as the only such photographic chronicle of Upper Nisqually Valley history. Joe also contributed key information and a marriage photograph to the “Suderburg Farm History” on the Heritage Barn Registry, Dept of Archeology, State of Washington.
In addition to enjoying travel and contributing to and publishing local history, Joe also continued with other projects in his retirement. In the apartment in his old garage, he organized his work by assigning each of type of material and tools a separate space: a room for jewelry making, a room for woodworking, a room for his long interest in photography, a room for metal working. On a visit a year before his death, after giving me a tour of his garage apartment and those many rooms he’d built by hand before he was married, I clearly remember Joe’s ironic comment to me: “Just got everything fixed up around here, and now I’m gonna croak.”
So, today in Eatonville, I offer this brief sketch of the man whose life we celebrate: faithful son, good builder, cautious worker, self-educated technician, expert mechanic, farmer, forester, self-employed mill owner and operator, logger, community repairman, utility lineman, church member, husband, father, photographer, historian, gentleman. To conclude, we might say of Joe what one of Shakespeare’s characters said: “He was a man, take him for all in all, [we] shall not look upon his like again.” May his legacy endure, his example inspire!
Thank you.

© George Venn - Reprinted by permission of the author. Contact information at Home - George Venn.

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