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Date of Issue: March 04, 2009

Holmes Beach official Saunders died Feb. 22

In Saunders' honor
Mayor Rich Bohnenberger and City Commissioners Pat Geyer, Sandy Haas-Martens, Pat Morton, John Monetti and David Zaccagnino stand in silence in memory of Bill Saunders. The assistant public works superintendent and building official died Feb. 22 at Tidewell Hospice and Palliative Care in Sarasota. A private memorial took place last week and plans are being made for a public service. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff
Millie Saunders said the drawing by Judy Titsworth given to her at the memorial service "is so fitting to Bill, and all the more so since his ashes will be put in the Gulf of Mexico in a setting almost exactly as Judy drew it.."

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said he was shocked to learn that building official William “Bill” Saunders had died.

Saunders, 76, of Holmes Beach, died Feb. 22.

“I knew he was struggling, but I didn’t expect to lose him so quickly,” Bohnenberger said, recalling that he had hired Saunders in March 1996 as a part-time building official and a job that quickly went to full-time in July.

Bohnenberger recalled, “I was home ironing a shirt to wear to a meeting that night and Bill called, responding to a request for an interview, so I asked him to come by the house.

“It was a sort of ‘shirt-sleeve’ interview,” the mayor continued, “a typical Island interview, the sort of thing that just happens in a small town.”

Saunders has left a void at Holmes Beach city hall, where the folks who answer the phones didn’t quite know what to say to people asking for him.

The mayor said he told the staff to tell people “Bill won’t be back,” but, he added, it wasn’t easy.

“He’d been on sick leave on and off for several months, and, just within the past few weeks, wife Millie had inquired on Bill’s behalf about disability,” Bohnenberger said.

“He was a great asset for the city, and a great friend,” the mayor said. “He’ll be missed.”

Born in Ashland, Va., Saunders moved to Sarasota 25 years ago from Washington, D.C., then to Holmes Beach.

He was the building official for Holmes Beach, as well as serving on occasions as interim building official for Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach. He was a general contractor and concrete contractor. He was past president of the Anna Maria Island Rotary Club.

A memorial service for friends and family was held on the beach last week. Memorial contributions may be made to Tidewell Hospice and Palliative Care, 5955 Rand Blvd., Sarasota FL 34239, or Little Angels Dog Rescue, 3288 S.E. Hansel Ave., Arcadia FL 34266.

He is survived by wife Millie: daughters Susan Bondi, Mae MacKenzie of Paris, France, Jennifer Lignon of New York, and Shawn Schneider of Parrish, Fla.; son Joe of California; brothers in Virginia and Georgia; 12 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.