Ronald H. "Ron" Sanders, who successfully combined a career as a Baltimore County public school educator and restaurateur who owned and operated Sanders' Corner, died Wednesday of non- Hodgkin's lymphoma at Gilchrist Hospice Care.
The longtime Timonium resident was 72.
Born in Baltimore, the son of a businessman and a homemaker, Mr. Sanders was raised in West Arlington.
After graduating from the Polytechnic Institute in 1956, he earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1961 from Western Maryland College, and a master's degree in education and supervision in 1966 from Loyola College.
In 1970, Mr. Sanders earned a master's degree in mathematics from Morgan State University.
Mr. Sanders began his career in education teaching mechanical drawing and math in Baltimore public schools. In 1962, he transferred to Baltimore County, where he became a math teacher at Overlea Senior High School and was eventually named chairman of the math department.
In 1970, Mr. Sanders became vice principal of Deep Creek Junior High School in Essex, and then was named vice principal of Sparrows Point Senior High School.
He was principal of Holabird Junior High School in Essex for 11 years before being named principal of Dumbarton Middle School in Rodgers Forge in 1987.
Mr. Sanders retired in 1989.
"Ron was always straight up, honest and a leader. He was a powerful force in the sense of his presence and doing what was right for the children," said Walter G. Amprey, former city school superintendent, who earlier had been a Baltimore County public school administrator.
"He also had the leadership to find the right programs and institutional materials for his students. He really was a leader in the southeastern region," Dr. Amprey recalled.
"Ron was also a leader among the other principals who admired him. He was very adroit at quickly getting to the point. He was always able to cut through the politics," he said. "He was liked by teachers, department heads and administrators."
Dr. Amprey said that it wasn't uncommon for "students to come back and seek his advice and counsel."
"While he was a very serious person, he was also very people-oriented," said Dave Greenwood, a retired Baltimore County principal, administrator and friend. "He was an all-around good man and well-liked in the community."
In addition to his career in education, Mr. Sanders earned his real estate license and, in 1976, began selling real estate for Byrnes, Barroll, Carroll & Sanders.
In 1980, he and his wife, the former Jacqueline Cook, whom he married in 1963, established Sanders & Co. At his death, he was still actively working in the residential real estate field.
In 1956, his father, Leigh C. Sanders, established Sanders' Corner, a small restaurant and homemade ice cream stand in the 2200 block of Cromwell Bridge Road, in a building that dated to the 1880s and had once been a blacksmith shop.
Through the years, the building, which sits below the long-abandoned right-of-way of the old Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad — better known as the Ma & Pa — that once paralleled Cromwell Bridge Road, had been a general store, post office, convenience store and soda fountain.
The railroad's Loch Raven Station stood across from the restaurant until railroad service ceased in 1958 and the building was torn down.
The restaurant's menu was not extensive; customers could choose from hot dogs, hamburgers, egg or tuna salad sandwiches, and one dessert option.
The elder Mr. Sanders, who died in 1986, was known for his homemade ice cream, which drew customers from all over.
After his father's death, Mr. Sanders renovated and expanded the restaurant, successfully transforming it into a full-service restaurant that overlooks the surrounding fields, woods and lower dam of the Loch Raven Reservoir.
In the renovation, Mr. Sanders held onto many original elements, such as the ancient knotty pine paneling, and reactivated a long-unused fireplace. He also included several pieces of Ma & Pa memorabilia in recognition of the long-gone and lamented railroad whose 77.2-mile line once connected Baltimore to York, Pa.
"I regret now that I never asked for it," Mr. Sanders told The Baltimore Sun in a 1992 interview about the loss of his father's ice cream recipe, which had kept the parking lot jammed for years and the cash register ringing. "I guess I was shortsighted, but I never expected to take this over."
Mr. Sanders expanded the operation, hired three cooks, and served breakfast, lunch and dinner at the place he nicknamed "That Dam Place at Loch Raven."
In the 1992 interview, Mr. Sanders said, the "nice thing about being retired is that I only work 60 hours a week now."
Patti Phipps, who had worked as a hostess for Mr. Sanders for more than a decade, recalled him as relishing the role of the happy host.
"He was like Toots Shor [the ebullient and legendary Manhattan restaurateur of the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s] who greeted all the customers. He just loved it. He really had a great personality," recalled Ms. Phipps.
"I liked eggs Benedict, but I thought Ron had the best turkey and ham club sandwich. Everything was absolutely fresh," she said. "Even my girlfriends loved them."
Darrah and Everett Updahl, who live in Long Green, were longtime customers.
"I first started taking my granddaughter there when she was a child for ice cream, and she's now 24," Mrs. Updahl said. "We took our family there, and now we're taking our grandchildren. It's always been such a fun place to be."
Mrs. Updahl said that Mr. Sanders brought a great deal of his experience in education to the restaurant.
"Ron was a very caring and encouraging person. He always saw the best in people. I know he got one woman to return to college and get her degree who now works in law enforcement," she said.
"He touched not only the lives of his staff but customers as well, and this was always in a positive way," she said.
Reflecting on her favorite dishes, Mrs. Updahl pointed to the petite filet of beef with two sides for $9.95.
"That tells you how long ago that was," she said, laughing. "I also liked the chicken Florentine with spinach, and on Saturday mornings, waffles."
"The whole place was a reflection of Ron and how nice he was," Mrs. Updahl said.
Mr. Sanders sold the restaurant in 2008.
He enjoyed boating at a second home he owned in Ocean Pines and spending time with his family.
He was a member of Towson United Methodist Church, where services were held Monday.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Sanders is survived by a son, Chase J. Sanders of Bethesda; a daughter, Lynn Sanders Manthy of Lutherville; two brothers, Gary Sanders of Bel Air and Walter Sanders of Baltimore; and five grandchildren.