Willis Joe Sanders, known to most as "Buster," passed away peacefully on Thursday, October 19, 2023, surrounded by his loving family, after battling frontotemporal lobe dementia for the last several years. Buster was a devoted husband, father, brother, grandfather, and great-grandfather, as well as a friend and mentor to many. He will be dearly missed.
Buster was born on September 12, 1939, to Julia Era Wood and Willis Needham Sanders, both of whom preceded him in death. He grew up in Dallas, Texas, and graduated from W. W. Samuell High School in 1958 and went on to attend Abilene Christian College. In High School, Buster was an active member of Pleasant Grove Church of Christ and an avid tennis player. He married his high school sweetheart, Audrey Ann Flowers, in 1962, and they recently celebrated 61 years of marriage. Buster and Audrey quickly began a family a year later welcoming their firstborn, a son, Gordon Wayne. Three years later, their daughter Kimber LeAnn was born.
Buster had a wide and diverse professional career. He began working as a paperboy at a young age, earning awards for selling the most subscriptions. After leaving Abilene Christian College, he became a manager at One Hour Martinizing before joining Dallas Power and Light. While working there, he also took on a part-time role at Spartans Department Store. He climbed the ladder from Part-time worker to Department Manager, to Assistant Store Manager, finally ascending to leading his own Store as Store Manager. After about 15 years, as Spartans began closing its stores, his entrepreneurial spirit began to emerge. He trained with a dear friend to learn the heating and air conditioning business and ran his own company for several years. In 1979, he became a franchise owner of Dunkin Donuts, partnering with another special friend and mentor. The donut shop was a true family effort as Audrey, Gordon, and Kimber all worked at the "family business." When major construction started on Central Expressway in the late 1980s, Buster sold the donut shop and transitioned into print brokering and acquiring rental houses. Eventually, rental properties became his primary occupation and his lasting legacy. In his free time, Buster could most often be found on the golf course. He truly loved the game and cherished the time he spent with friends and family on the courses. His favorite golfing partners were his brother David and his dear friend and pastor, the late Jim Pritchard. He loved his church, First Baptist of Forney, serving as a head usher for several years.
Despite his successful business acumen, Buster's true pride and joy came from his children and grandchildren. He supported them wholeheartedly as their biggest fan and cheerleader and took pride in sharing their accomplishments. Dad/Papa was present and involved in their lives, coaching their baseball teams, attending their extracurricular events, planning summer vacations and ski trips, and joyfully taking his grandchildren on excursions. Without a doubt, he made memories with them that will be treasured for their lifetimes.
Always an active and energetic man, Buster sought opportunities to learn something new. In 1982, he obtained his pilot's license, and at the age of 66, he achieved his Open Water Scuba diving certification in 2005. Traveling also brought Buster immense joy. Family summer vacations were spent exploring various national parks, monuments, and cities across the country. After his son relocated to Hong Kong, Buster treasured the numerous trips he made to visit him, and together, they ventured to different countries in Asia. He also embarked on a memorable journey to Israel with his wife and joined a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with his daughter and grandson. Additionally, he genuinely enjoyed traveling with the senior group at First Baptist Church of Forney, creating lasting memories alongside Brother Jerry.
Buster was a generous, compassionate, hard-working provider for his family and sincerely wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. His spirit of mentorship and guidance was appreciated by so many friends and family. Buster was incredibly gregarious, honestly never meeting a stranger and always having a story to share. With Buster, he never seemed in a hurry when you wanted to talk. He was the definition of a true, genuine friend.
Buster is survived by his wife, Audrey Sanders; his son, Gordon Sanders, and his wife, Melissa; his daughter, Kimber Jensen, and her husband, David; his granddaughter, Karington Johnston, and her husband, Chris; his grandsons, Kaden Buchanan and his wife, Lexi, Kauland Buchanan and his wife, Sarah, and Hudson Jensen; his great-granddaughters, Juniper Buchanan and Milly Buchanan; his brother, David Sanders, and his wife, Susan; his nieces, Camille Scent and Lauren Pollard, along with numerous cousins and friends, many who are like family. In addition to his parents, Buster was preceded in death by his loving older sister, Wilma Sanders Sturdivant, and his beloved niece, Candace Sturdivant Donaldson.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration https://www.theaftd.org/.