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Charles Stephen Sanderson

Loved ones will remember Charles Stephen Sanderson, known as Zeke, as a man who wasn’t afraid to live life on his own terms, while never straying far from his commitments to home and family. Zeke had a big personality and people responded to him in a big way. He was a devoted son, a loving father, and a reliable friend whose faith was grounded in a reverence for the Earth and humankind. Zeke died on June 22, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. He was 76 years young.

Zeke grew up on Tally Ho Farm in Cumberland County, Virginia, surrounded by cousins as close as siblings, horses, cattle and fresh air. He was born on July 28, 1943, the younger of two boys. Zeke developed a strong connection to the land on which he and his family worked and played. 

He was a talented athlete at Cumberland High School and went on to attend Hampden-Sydney College, where he played baseball and football, and joined the Kappa Alpha Order. People were drawn to Zeke. With a natural flair for storytelling and socializing, he still managed to earn a bachelor’s degree in history, graduating in 1966.

After college, Zeke joined R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company as a salesman, based in Charlottesville, Virginia. But the suit and tie life never quite fit. Zeke always enjoyed working with his hands and, for the next 40 years, would build and renovate homes throughout Central Virginia. Building was a creative process for Zeke, where he could use his skills to help his clients construct their dreams. 

Love of baseball was a constant in Zeke’s life. He loved playing and coaching the sport and became player-manager for two adult sandlot teams. Zeke followed the sport his entire life and was thrilled last fall when his favorite team, the Washington Nationals, won their first World Series. 

Zeke was also curious about the world at large. When his daughter Lee was 10, he took her with him to New Zealand for a three-month adventure. That trip solidified their sense of wanderlust, and the two went on to explore Paris, Kenya, Zanzibar and Israel together.

In the mid-eighties, Zeke moved back to Tally Ho Farm to care for his mother. He took over farming at Tally Ho and reconnected to the land while continuing to build homes. He became an active participant in the community, joining the Cumberland County Planning Commission and leading the county’s Democratic Committee. He also hosted a series of music festivals at Tally Ho for the community. 

At his core, Zeke held an old-fashioned commitment to kindness and acceptance – which made him an excellent teacher and mentor. Zeke designed and implemented a vocational skills program at a residential school for young men, passing along the skills he had developed in his career as a builder. As one of his former students said about Zeke’s class, “I wish I had a huge vocabulary because I have too much to say and not enough words about how I feel about Vo-Tech. It has got me a job where almost everything I learned in your Vo-Tech class, I needed to know at my job.”

Zeke loved dogs and, for a time, bred Siberian Huskies. At one point he even found himself surrounded by 17 Husky puppies and six adults. But the real love of his dog life was Bo, a shelter rescue and Zeke’s constant companion. If people in Cumberland knew Zeke, they for sure knew Bo. 

For the last three years of his life, Zeke lived with his daughter in Richmond’s historic Church Hill neighborhood, where he enjoyed sunsets viewed from his front porch and all the food, drink and people watching that city life can offer. 

Much of Zeke’s life was built on contradictions: He was a loner who loved people, a country boy with worldly wanderlust, and a sentimental contrarian. But whether he was farming in Virginia or hitchhiking in New Zealand, Zeke maintained a constant passion for life – one full of adventure and love. It was a life he was proud of and one that lives on in the people he touched. 

Zeke is predeceased by his parents Charlie and Clover Sanderson; his brother and sister-in-law Bob and Suzanne Sanderson and his nephew, Tony Sanderson. He is survived by his daughter, Carmen Lee Sanderson, and his nephew, Christopher Carter Sanderson. 

A memorial service will be held in early autumn at Thomas Chapel United Methodist Church in Cumberland, Virginia; the date is forthcoming. Donations in memoriam can be made to Church Hill Activities and Tutoring, in the name of Zeke Sanderson.