Dr. Jean Alan Sanders

Memorial services for Dr. Jean Alan Sanders “Alan” will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, August 14, 2021 at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence. A reception will be at 3 p.m. at Maceli’s. Masks are required.


Dr. Jean Alan Sanders (“Alan”) passed away peacefully at home, and with his wife Diane, and sons, Karl and Curtis, on January 7, 2021. Alan would have celebrated his 92nd birthday on January 10, 2021.

Alan was born January 10, 1929 in Enid Oklahoma to Jean Sanders and Eunice Harriet Sanders (Holmes). Alan’s family included an older brother, John Noel Sanders, who passed away in 2009.

Alan’s early years were spent riding out the Great Depression with his family on a farm in Vernon County, Missouri. Alan’s childhood home did not have running water or indoor plumbing, and Alan’s father Jean provided for his family by running a small farm. His mother Eunice worked as a public health nurse, after serving as a Red Cross nurse in Rouen, France during World War I. Alan’s first years of schooling were in a one-room schoolhouse, and he graduated high school from Sheldon High School in Sheldon, Missouri with a class of twelve graduates. Alan credited his perfect teeth in later years to drinking from a water well on his childhood farm which contained just the right amount of minerals.

After Alan’s father passed away unexpectedly in 1949, Alan was drafted into the Army in 1951, after several unsuccessful attempts to enlist. In 1952, Alan graduated from Counterintelligence Corps training school in Fort Holabird, Maryland, and spent the remainder of his active duty in Hoff, Germany as a plainclothes officer interrogating refugees entering West Germany from East Germany. After his honorable discharge in 1953, Alan attended Wichita State University, the University of Missouri, and the University of Kansas with funds provided by the G.I. Bill and by various odd jobs, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Wichita State University in 1955.

While attending college in Wichita, Alan met the love of his life, Diane Sanders (Sandberg), on a blind date in 1955. Alan and Diane were married on June 22, 1958, and were seldom, if ever, apart for the next sixty-two years.

After college graduation, Alan attended the University of Kansas School of Medicine, receiving his doctorate of medicine in 1960. Alan served an internship and a residency in anatomic and clinical pathology, at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas. While in Wichita, Alan and Diane welcomed the birth of their first son, Karl Alan Sanders, in 1962, and their second son, Curtis Bradley Sanders, in 1965. The family moved to Lawrence, Kansas in 1965, where Alan took a position as the first full-time pathologist of Lawrence Memorial Hospital (and for many years, a part-time Douglas County Coroner), and Alan and Diane continuously resided in Lawrence until Alan’s death. As part of his practice, Alan, along with his long-time partner Laurance (“Bud”) Price, founded Lawrence Clinical Laboratory, which Alan operated with Dr. Price and with Dr. Carol Moddrell. Alan served as national president of the Private Practitioners of Pathology from 1983-1984, and retired from the practice of medicine in 1997.

Alan’s and Diane’s marriage was a true partnership, and few, if any, activities of either Alan or Diane was a solo endeavor. Even Alan’s passion for sailing was nervously tolerated by Diane. The best example of this partnership was Alan and Diane’s riding a tandem bicycle across Iowa, and other bicycling trips, some short, and some long, including trips across both Kansas and Iowa, and through France. Alan and Diane also shared a passion for gardening, and starting with their earliest days in Lawrence, planted and harvested vegetable gardens over more than fifty hot Kansas summers, including corn, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and beans.

Alan enjoyed many diverse activities such as playing piano and banjo, tennis, skiing, religious studies, foreign language studies, auditing classes at the University of Kansas, reading, gardening, and travel. Alan enjoyed the companionship of many dogs over the years, most recently including his and Diane’s adoption of their shelter dog “Annie.” He also patiently abided his sons’ pet hamsters, lizards, snakes, ducks, frogs, turtles, a chicken, a rabbit, a few cats, and for a mercifully short period of time, a pet alligator. His most recent trip involved traveling to northeast Kansas to enjoy the total solar eclipse in the company of his entire family, including his young grandchildren. Although Alan spent time in his youth working as a fry cook at the White Grill restaurant in Iola, Kansas, his best dishes were Sunday night popcorn, and the occasional scrambled egg and mustard sandwich. Alan was naturally curious and inquisitive, and a lifelong learner, and these traits kept Alan very busy during his twenty-three years of retirement.

Alan’s true passion was his service to Plymouth Congregational Church, and to the Lawrence community. Alan was a founder of Visiting Nurses Association of Lawrence in 1969, and a past member of both the Lawrence Kiwanis Club and the noon Rotary Club. Alan also served on the Lawrence Public Library board of directors, and was a volunteer reader for the University of Kansas audio reader program. Over the years, Alan and Diane were active participants (including as a host family for many students) in the University of Kansas foreign exchange program, as well as Meals on Wheels, and more recently, were participants in Justice Matters.

Alan and Diane joined Plymouth Congregational Church in 1966. One of Alan’s proudest accomplishments was his early involvement in Plymouth’s adoption and implementation of its Open and Affirming policy, intended to make Plymouth welcoming to all people. Alan participated in the drafting of the Opening and Affirming policy statement, which includes the words: “We work and pray for the progress of knowledge, the promotion of justice, and the realization of our shared humanity.”

Alan’s most lasting legacy is the numerous examples of kindness, honesty, and integrity that he set for his family, friends, and co-workers over his entire lifetime. Alan led by example, rather than by instruction, and was at all times caring, warm-hearted, and generous. He was tolerant and accepting of all types, shapes, sizes and colors of people, and actively sought out the company of people with whom he had nothing in common. Alan was a loving and attentive husband and father, and provided his family with the privileges and comforts that he himself did not enjoy during his childhood in depression-era rural Missouri. Until he retired, Alan worked long days, and half days on Saturdays. Most evenings, he would fall asleep after dinner in a favorite chair with a scholarly or professional journal on his chest.

Alan’s most enduring trait was his abject unflappability. For Alan, nothing was ever worth much worry, or ever as bad as it seemed, and certainly nothing was worth losing sleep over, especially a good nap. Clear-headed thinking, and always taking the “long view” helped Alan lead a long life, and more importantly, a good life.

Alan is survived by his wife of sixty-two years, Diane Sue Sanders (Sandberg). He is also survived by his son, Karl Alan Sanders, his daughter-in-law, Natalie Sanders (Reeves) of Salt Lake City, Utah, and grandchildren Sam Lawlor Sanders, Travis Alan Sanders, and Ruby Anne Sanders, and is also survived by his son Curtis Bradley Sanders, his daughter-in-law Catherine Sanders (Barta) of Aspen, Colorado, and grandchildren Lily Louise Sanders and Edward Bensen Sanders. Extended family include his niece Susan Bridwell (Sanders) and her husband Craig Bridwell of Fernandina Beach, Florida; nephew John David Sanders and his wife Su Sanders of St. Charles, Missouri; sister-in-law Sue Sandberg of Wichita, Kansas; nephew Clarke Sandberg and his wife Sharolyn Sandberg of Wichita, Kansas; and nephew Joseph Sandberg and his wife Emily Sandberg of Las Vegas, Nevada.

In honor of Alan’s service to community and church, the family requests donations in Alan’s name to Meals on Wheels of Lawrence (www.lawrencemow.org) or Plymouth Congregational Church (www.plymouthlawrence.com) in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 West 13th Street, Lawrence, Kansas 66044.

18 Condolences

  1. Stan and Phyllis Rolfe on January 11, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    What a wonderful life! We are glad to have known Alan. Stan and Phyllis Rolfe

  2. Phil & Phoebe Godwin on January 12, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    Knew you from the day you came to Lawrence and we certainly are sorry to see you go. We wish you well, old friend.

  3. Patricia Durie on January 12, 2021 at 5:07 pm

    We are so grateful for the long-time friendship of Dr. Sanders and his dear family. The family of Dr. Robert Durie.

  4. Dawn Houghton on January 13, 2021 at 11:36 pm

    How lucky we all are to have known Alan Sanders. Thank you for the beautiful obituary. Warm-hearted is absolutely spot on. Alan’s presence was easy; he was kind, interesting, inquisitive, funny, light. Diane, Karl, Curtis, Natalie, Caiti, Sammy, Travis, Ruby, Lily and Edward, I send my love and hope you find comfort in the memory of Alan’s long and meaningful life. Thank you for sharing him and his history. May we carry his good spirit with us always.

  5. Jim and Ginny O’Connell on January 14, 2021 at 7:33 am

    What a wonderful life. Deepest sympathy to the Sanders family!

  6. Mark Praeger on January 14, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    Dear Diane and family,
    I share your heartache of Alan’s loss. I loved working with him for many years before his retirement, and loved bragging to my friends around the country about our superlative pathology department; So important to a surgeon, and they never once let me down.! He was such a gentleman and friend. And my special relationship with Diane over the years will keep alive my special memory of the Sanders family. Rest In Peace.

  7. Armine and Jacob Der-Karabetian on January 14, 2021 at 2:26 pm

    Dear Diane and Family:

    Please accept our heartfelt condolences. We heard the sad news from Charlene. We have very fond memories of Alan, you and the boys from the mid 1970 when we were in Lawrence. I was a student at KU, and Armine worked at LM with Alan.
    We will cherish the good memories.

    Armine and Jacob Der-Karabetian

  8. Maurice Joy on January 15, 2021 at 9:35 am

    Alan was one of the truly good folks in town and the word unflappable is right on target. Diane – Betsy and I send best wishes at this sad time.

  9. Jerry and Sue Harkness on January 15, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    Our condolences to the family. Alan was such a great guy and we will miss him very much, but will keep him memory alive with the 60 years of friendship we shared.

  10. Kay Koch on January 15, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    Diane and Family – I’m sorry to hear of Alan’s passing. I enjoyed knowing him at Plymouth Church and could always count of him to volunteer for help. What a great guy! Rest in peace Alan.

  11. Julie and gina(spain) gerken on January 15, 2021 at 2:55 pm

    Kurt and family

    So sorry for your loss

  12. Deb McGlohon on January 15, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear of Alan’s passing. I worked for LCL in the 70s/80’s. Dr. Sanders was a very fair, considerate and kind man-he had a way of making others feel special. I have such fond memories of him. I feel very blessed to have known him!

    Praying for your family!

  13. Charlene Droste on January 16, 2021 at 9:57 am

    Diane and family,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Dr. Sanders was a true gentleman and a gentle man. I was fortunate to meet him over fifty years ago when I went to work at the Laboratory at LMH. I have nothing but happy memories of you both.

    Charlene Droste

  14. Ginny Ovenstone on January 18, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    Diane, I will always remember how Dr. Sanders answered my request for information at a time I was unable to access it. There was no judging, just immediate response to my request. I didn’t know how truly remarkable a man he was until I read his obituary. He will be missed by so many.

    Ginny Shipley Ovenstone

  15. Luis Yamamoto on January 19, 2021 at 10:56 am

    Dear Diane,
    I am so sorry for your loss. I will forever be thankful for being my host parents while attending KU and beyond.
    I have so many good memories in Lawrence thanks to both of you and I hope you kept a few good ones from Peru.
    My family in Peru and Seattle also sends you their deepest felt condolences to you and your family.


  16. ROBERT TREPINSKI on January 20, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    Dear Diane and family:
    I was warmly greeted when I came to work at LMH in 1991.
    Dr. Sanders was always the most courteous individual every time I
    stopped into the lab just to see if “the administration” could do anything to
    help the lab. Our walks crossed at hospital events and endowment events but
    I have only warm thoughts of him and you and sympathy for you at your time of loss.
    He was a great man. One of those rock solid pillars, a statesman, that just stick in your mind. Full of admiration for him. Peace to all of you.

  17. Tad & Liz Krape on February 5, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    Diane, Karl, & Curtis,

    I have many fond memories from my childhood spending time with your family. I remember one windy Saturday in Sept ’76 when I was invited to go sailing with Alan and Karl on Lake Perry. Alan navigated the sailboat with great skill and kept it upright when I thought for sure it was going to tip over in the high winds. I will always remember his kindness and strong presence. We will be keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers. We will miss him.

  18. Vicki (Holmes) Dennison on July 1, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Loved reading all the accomplishments of Alan. Noel (as my father called him) brought Alan one afternoon to Nevada. It was like we had seen each other just last week. He, Noel, and I chatted all afternoon. My father was Victor and I am the oldest so I have great childhood memories all of the Holmes’. We had many reunions and many of the aunts came. I am sorry I will not able to come for service but appreciate receiving the obituary.

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