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Philip "Phil" Sanders Jr. '85 May 3, 2022 3:01 PM updated: May 3, 2022 3:11 PM

Philip Eugene Sanders, Jr.

November 29, 1962 - April 7, 2022

Philip Eugene Sanders, Jr. was born in Austin, Texas, on November 29, 1962, and died on April 7, 2022 due to complications from tongue cancer. He was a lifelong resident of the Barton Hills neighborhood, a Shangri-La for families, and grew up surrounded by people who knew and cared about him. Although small in stature, Philip was born with a fierce, competitive spirit and a keen intellect. Both traits helped guide his life's journey.

Philip attended Barton Hills Elementary, O. Henry Middle School, and Austin High School, graduating in 1981. He grew up at First Baptist Church of Austin and was active in the Sunday school, youth group, and choir programs, winning a scholarship to a choir camp at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. As a youngster, his competitiveness played out on Little League baseball diamonds and tennis and basketball courts. In high school, he honed his lifelong love of tennis, a Sanders family sport, as a member of the Maroons tennis team.

Upon graduation, Philip chose Texas A&M University too late to get a dorm room, so he agreed to join the Corps of Cadets, since they always had a room available. It certainly didn't hurt that his good friend David Tucker from the neighborhood was already there in Squadron Five, affectionately known as the Filthy Fifth.
He arrived on campus with longish hair, flip-flops, and baggy shorts, thinking he could play golf that very afternoon. He almost got laughed off the campus! Nevertheless, he was indeed a member of the Corps in Squadron Five.

Philip's experiences at A&M were some of the richest of his life, resulting in a sense of discipline, and more importantly, a foundation of deep and faithful friendships that lasted until the end. About five days before Philip's death, seventeen of his A&M buddies joined him for a reunion at his family's lake house. They had a wonderful time reconnecting and saying their goodbyes.

Philip began his professional life as a tennis coach in Rockport, Texas, where he led his co-ed team to a district championship. In his next coaching job in Del Rio, Texas, he again made an impact, with one former player saying, "This man, in one year in Del Rio, changed a lot of our lives forever with his wisdom and positive attitudes every day. He was a great coach but better human being. Coach, I know you never gave up or lost hope." He finished his tennis coaching career in Athens, Texas, where his huge heart and giving nature helped him make friends easily. It was on the wonderful lakes around Athens that he discovered his next professional journey.

His plan encompassed everything he liked to do most: teaching and fishing. Philip built a fishing guide business on Lake LBJ, using his family's waterfront house as a home base. His diverse clients included kids, grandparents, and avid recreationalists who all loved sharing Philip's passionate expertise. His clients and friends and family also loved sharing his grilling expertise. Those fajitas, and especially the tenderloins, were delicious and almost legendary.

Philip always loved and was loved by others. When he finally surrendered his strong will and embraced sobriety, he learned how to love himself. That gave him the freedom to be who he was born to be.
The Sanders family is grateful to the skilled and caring staff at The Arbor in Georgetown where he finally "got it." Philip let go and let God and found strength through dedicated and determined 12 Step work in the Bouldin AA group. With their consistent friendship and support, he lived into the process of change and was eventually able to give back to others as a sponsor and friend to many making the same journey.
His two magnificent sisters, Alison and Nancy, cared for him during the last six months of his life in every aspect of his illness with love and healing care. His sisters' selfless devotion and dedication were the most beautiful gifts imaginable, both to their brother, and to their parents. Our gratitude is immeasurable.
A longtime family friend said of Philip's final days, "My last conversation with him just stays in my mind. Despite his struggle to speak, he didn't let that stop him. He carefully articulated what he was feeling and he lifted the spirits of all of us when he spoke. I just want you to know how much I loved Philip's fight, his honesty, his great sense of humor, and his tenacity. He never gave up and went down fighting. He loved you both, and along the way, he came to love himself. He was a true individual."
Indeed. Thanks be to God for the life of Philip Sanders, Jr.

Philip is survived by his parents Kay and Phil Sanders, his sister Alison Irby and son Cole, his sister Nancy Snyder and husband Brian, their sons, Brian and Chance, and his cherished Aunt Virginia Wallace. Philip's three nephews, Brian, Chance, and Cole, were his pride and joy, and he absolutely adored each of them. He also loved his nieces Kimberly Snyder and Megan Snyder Morales and her sons Hudson and Wyatt. He is also survived by a host of beloved cousins, in particular Rob Wallace, who was only eight months older than Philip.

A celebration of Philip's life will be held at First Baptist Church of Austin on Saturday, April 30th, at 11:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, friends are encouraged to give a gift to First Baptist Church in his memory, or to make a contribution to a charity of their choice.



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