SEQ Loses “Beautiful Soul”

A Personal Perspective

This week is rich with topics one could write about in this space, but there are enough people writing about the ignorance and arrogance of Donald Trump, so we’ll keep it in the community.

Someone who “got it” and was dear to this community recently died after a long illness. Honorable Laura Sanders deserves to be honored for her contributions to the life of Southeast Queens as her own life comes to an end.

My most vivid memory of District Leader Laura Sanders will probably always be of her at the Guy R. Brewer United Democratic Club on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I had not seen her angry before, but that day she was at once angry, shocked, terrified and crying at what we were all seeing in real time on the TV set up in “the club” to watch election returns that night.

She was always a dignified lady—but in that moment she, like the rest of us, was screaming, crying and at a complete loss as the World Trade Center was attacked by mad men using commuter planes as weapons of mass destruction.

As a country, city and community, we were bonded in mutual shock and pain. It was probably the first time that Laura Sanders felt helpless and hopeless. We all felt that way and the best that we could do was exactly what she was doing.

As a mother and grandmother, she was outraged that this dastardly act could be taking place in our country and city. The tragedy we were witnessing on the news was impacting families right in our neighborhood. We all knew someone or knew of someone’s kid, sibling, spouse, friend or cousin who worked at the World Trade Center. It was one of our city’s largest employers. We were calling out names of those people and wondering if they had made it out before the towers fell.

Laura cared about her community and her neighbors and she felt helpless to do anything for them in that moment. In addition to her contributions as a district leader making sure that Southeast Queens always had a seat at the Queens County Democrats’ table, she was also a devoted member of the Jamaica Branch NAACP and a lobbyist for the Association for the Advancement of the Blind and Retarded. She was a founding member of United Black Women for Change and worked tirelessly in support of community efforts through that and her other affiliations.

Her death on Aug. 7 has truly saddened us. Laura was a beautiful soul and while her passing was not unexpected, the still youthful 81-year-old will be forever missed by all who loved and respected her. She would be outraged by what took place in Virginia last weekend and even more so at the response from the president.

As someone who grew up in a southern state, we can bet that Laura saw “some stuff” growing up there. We know she fought against it during the Civil Rights Movement and throughout her life. She would now be saying, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

A dedicated member of the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Queens, Laura spent her early years in the St. James AME Church in Darlington, South Carolina, which shaped her Christian call to service. She spent the last years of her life in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she had moved with her beloved daughter, Marilyn Wilds-Barnes.

May Laura Sanders rest in peace, knowing that she, to quote the Apostle Paul, “…fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). And may her family take comfort in the great love they shared.

2 thoughts on “SEQ Loses “Beautiful Soul”

  1. Vivian Wilds

    I was one of her sister-in-laws and also knew of her grass-roots from South Carolina. She was one ambitious woman. I have so many fond memories of the times we spent at her home in Queens and of the time in Charlotte. I’m missing her in mind, but I know she has served her family and community well. I can truly say that she lived her life as the famous song says “IF I CAN HELP SOMEBODY, THEN MY LIVING SHALL NOT BE IN VAIN. ” She did her best.


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