Rancher and former Space Program engineer, Walter B. Sanders of Jewett, passed away Thursday August 16, 2018 at St Joseph Hospital, Bryan, Texas. He was 83.
Walter was born to a sharecropper and worked on his father’s Hempstead, Texas watermelon farm through his teens. He could pick the best tasting watermelon every time.
Walter skipped eighth grade and graduated high school at 17. He joined the army after high school, and was stationed in Japan where he ably served as a cross-country ski instructor (an odd assignment for a Texas boy who had previously seen little snow much less skied in it). Walter returned to the Houston area and enrolled at the University of Houston where he graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering just in time to become part of the race to the moon.
Walter moved his wife Geraldine and daughter Linda to Huntsville, Alabama where he supervised a team working on testing and preparing the Saturn Five for its historical flight. When the rocket was ready, Walter went to work at NASA in Clear Lake. He worked on many projects associated with preparing the astronauts for their flight to the moon and later worked with the crews of the space shuttles.
But Walter’s one true avocation and love was ranching. He spent all his weekends and vacations working on his land, building his house and caring for his cattle until he eventually retired to his Bar-O ranch. In his last days, his main desire was to care for his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. He was a man of great generosity who simply loved and cared for others.
Walter was a devout Christian and a member of First Baptist Church of Jewett.
He was preceded in death by his mother Artie Bell Hancock, father Walter Allen Sanders, and his siblings Allen Sanders and Yvon Draker. He is survived by is wife Geraldine Sanders, his daughter Linda K. Zoeller, his son-in-law Paul Zoeller; and his three grandchildren Keith Cook, Stephen Cook and Kaitlyn Zoeller. In addition, he is survived a number of nieces and nephews that he loved dearly.
The service was held on Saturday, August 25, 2018 at First Baptist Church of Jewett with Burial at Pool’s Cemetery in Montgomery County, Texas.