Lou Sanders, WWII vet and staple of Mineola, dies

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Lou Sanders with his wife, Grace.

Lou Sanders, founder of the Mineola American weekly newspaper and staple of the local community, died Friday. He was 94.

“It became a bedrock of this town,” Tom Sanders, his son, said of the Mineola American. “I would definitely have to say that [he considered] founding the paper to be one of his greatest accomplishments.”

Sanders was born on July 22, 1923, in the St. Albans neighborhood in Queens. He was drafted by the Army in 1942 and served four years in Europe as a combat engineer, originally stationed in England and then taking part in battles in France, Holland and Germany.

After returning from the war, Sanders earned a degree in journalism from New York University and married his wife, Grace. They were married for 68 years, until her death last year. After Sanders worked for several papers, the couple moved to Long Island and launched their own paper, the Mineola American, in 1952.

“I think he always had an interest in writing and after [the war] he was looking to join a newspaper,” Tom Sanders said of his father’s interest in reporting. “He got tired of working for someone else, so he and my mom started scouting different towns on Long Island and determined Mineola would be a good place to start a paper.”

Lou and Grace Sanders ran the newspaper for 40 years, with Lou selling advertisements and writing editorials and Grace serving as the paper’s business manager. In 1992, the couple sold the paper to Anton Media Group, but Lou Sanders continued to write columns like “Around Town with Lou,” which Tom Sanders said Lou Sanders continued to work on until last week.

While the Mineola American might have been Sanders’ biggest accomplishment, it was far from his only contribution to the community. He was also a charter member of the Mineola Chamber of Commerce and served as president of the chamber five times.

“I’ve done one term and that’s a lot. I can’t imagine serving five times,” said Tony Lubrano, the current chamber president. “He was always involved with the community, with local activities. I’m at a loss to describe how much he contributed to Mineola.”

He was also twice elected president of the Nassau County Press Association, and was a member of the VFW, the American Legion and the Knights of Columbus. He helped to establish the John DaVanzo Wall of Honor, a shrine in Village Hall to Mineola’s most dedicated community servants, and was the first inductee.

When not busy with the newspaper or one of the civic organizations he participated in, Sanders learned to speak Spanish. It was an interest that speaks to the kind of man his father was, Tom Sanders said.

“There was a time in the ’60s and ’70s when a lot of Hispanic folks were moving to Nassau County,” Tom Sanders said. “Some people were resentful of that, but [my father] really wanted to embrace the culture and taught himself Spanish… he had a lot of Hispanic acquaintances. He was always friendly and welcoming, he didn’t judge people by where they were born.”

In addition to his son, Lou Sanders is survived by another son, Richard Sanders, and a daughter, Sister Annmarie of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and three grandchildren. He was buried next to his wife at the Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

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