Mary Virginia Sanders passed away peacefully on September 1, 2019 at her residence on Lake Sam Rayburn at the age of 97.

Memorial services will be held Saturday, September 7, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. at First United Methodist Church in Jasper with Reverend Drew Weber, Pastor, officiating.

On July 22, 1922 Clarence Ryall Stone and Nellie Mae Neal had their first baby, a girl. They named her "Mary Virginia" a namesake of her maternal great-aunt, Mary Virginia Neal, in Rome, Georgia. Clarence "Smokey" Stone and his brother Joe Stone were pharmacists in the family drugstore, Stone Brothers Drug Store, on the square in downtown Jasper. Mary Virginia remembered her daddy giving her a "Hershey's Kiss" from the drug store candy case. It was her first taste of chocolate and was her favorite candy all her life.

The great depression was a crisis for the drug store. The store was eventually closed and by this time Smokey and Nellie Mae had three more children. Smokey had to travel throughout Texas to find work in pharmacies while Nellie Mae took a job at the Jasper library and later with the CCC. Mary Virginia helped care for her younger siblings. It was her job to read them stories and help them learn their lessons. She realized at an early age that if she wanted to go to college she would have to work hard and manage that on her own by getting scholarships. She knew that financially her family would not be able to help her.

Mary Virginia became an avid reader. Her books were her companions. She could travel the world and go on all sorts of adventures! Her love of reading and learning was ingrained in her character and she never spent a day without learning something new or appreciating the world around her, whether plants, trees, rocks, animals, or birds. Even in her later years, walking with a cane, she would venture outside to pick a magnolia blossom, a handful of fall leaves, or a bird feather to treasure. She always said, "How can anyone not be happy? All they have to do is look outside!"

She had a time-worn dictionary that she received as a child and still used almost every day. She lovingly remembered and commented, "Mama was wise and knew what she was doing when she gave me that dictionary!" She was an eternal optimist and always put her focus on others, not on herself. She said that she felt she was born with a "social conscience." She would always find something encouraging to say and even go out of her way to tell a person sweeping the floor, "You're doing a great job!" Her affection for her fellow man knew no boundaries of race, religion, or any other distinction. She seemed to be "driven" to encourage. She never wanted to be the center of attention and always found a way to bring attention to someone other than herself.

Mary Virginia excelled in school and her friends have commented that "it didn't matter if they made an A+, Mary Virginia always made an A++!" She was awarded the American Legion medal in junior high and as a senior. She was valedictorian of the 1939 class of Jasper High School and received a scholarship to attend Lamar Junior College where she was valedictorian of the graduating class of 1941. In college, she worked, carried a full schedule, and was also a member of the "Curtain Club". She was accepted to Texas University (University of Texas at Austin) and was awarded the first Texas University scholarship given by the Southeast Texas Club at Texas. She majored in science and math. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she was accepted into medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. It was there that she met her future husband, William Shirley Sanders, in anatomy class, and they were married in 1944. She set aside her medical career, and went to work to support him. After his residency at Philidelphia General Hospital, they returned to Texas and made Jasper their home. By 1948, they had two children, a son, Bill, and daughter, Susanne. Dr. Sanders went into partnership with Dr. Joe Wesley Dickerson at Hardy-Hancock Hospital. After Dr. Sanders' death in 1956, Mary Virginia pursued their dream of building a private hospital in Jasper and worked tirelessly as hospital administrator in the planning, building, and establishment of Mary E. Dickerson Memorial Hospital and William S. Sanders Clinic. Mary Virginia spent her later years "enjoying her solitude" and watching all the "birds and beasties" that visited her patio at her lakehouse on Lake Sam Rayburn while enjoying visits from her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Mary Virginia loved studying the natural world in books and in reality. When she had the opportunity to purchase special items for her home or as gifts for others, each selection had a special meaning in her life and was usually something from nature. She had an appreciation of art and sculpture and was an enthusiastic supporter of Jasper county's local artists through the years.

She was a long-time member of the Methodist church. She was a member of the "Cradle Club," and ties to the church were in her DNA. Her great grandfather, Zacheus Ryall, and three other men gave money to purchase land to build the very first Methodist church in Jasper County, which was a log building. When Hattie Ryall Stone, her paternal grandmother died in 1941, she was the longest serving member of the First Methodist Church in Jasper, having been a member for 62 continuous years.

Mary Virginia was preceded in death by her husband, William S. Sanders, MD and her brother, Thomas Edwin Stone. She is survived by her sister, Joella Runnels, of Westerville, Ohio and brother, John Neal Stone and wife Missy, of Vernon; son, William E. Sanders, MD of San Antonio and daughter, Susanne Sanders Bradshaw of Houston; grandchildren Ben Weaver and wife Nicole of Houston, Clark Sanders and wife Shaunda of San Antonio, Elizabeth Manning and husband Todd of Gallatin, TN, and Cayce Bradshaw of Houston; great-grandchildren William and Nathan Weaver, Taylor and Ashleigh Sanders and Julia, Ruthie, and Nathan Manning.

Services are under the direction of Stringer & Griffin Funeral Home of Jasper.