Cover photo for Thomas Leon Sanders's Obituary
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1946 Thomas Leon Sanders 2023

Thomas Leon Sanders

October 10, 1946 — November 1, 2023

Thomas Leon Sanders of Tijeras, NM was born in Sinton, Texas on October 10, 1946. He died at home on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, surrounded by his loving family. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Barbara; sons, Ryan (wife Samantha) and Patrick (wife Misty); stepchildren, Karen Brown (husband Tim), James Brasher (wife Julie) Andrew Brasher (wife Kimberly), John Brasher (wife Sara), and Philip Coen. He was Grandpa to nine grandchildren, Rylee, Addison and Charlotte Sanders and Jack, Sebastian, Madeleine, Allison, Rachel, and Hannah Brasher.

Tom grew up on the gulf coast of south Texas. After graduating from Gregory-Portland High School at 17, he spent some time in Ventura, CA before returning to Texas where he attended junior college and worked on charter boats and tugboats. In 1966 he got his draft notice, and with the Vietnam conflict underway he spoke with Navy recruiters. Tom was given an aptitude test which qualified him for the burgeoning nuclear navy. After boot camp he became an electrician's mate and from there he went into the Navy's nuclear power school, followed by submarine school. He served on the USS Kamehameah, a Polaris submarine and on the USS Shark, one of the first nuclear-powered vessels. He served in the Navy until 1972, then worked as a nuclear-qualified electrician at a shipyard in Virginia. He returned to Texas to enroll at the University of Texas in Austin (Hook 'em!) and attended from 1977 to 1985 earning his bachelor's and master's degrees and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with an emphasis on nuclear engineering. Upon graduation, Tom accepted a position at Sandia National Laboratories where he worked until 2011. Tom was particularly interested in Nuclear Global Initiatives, and a highlight of his career was being part of a group of specialists to go to Kazakhstan after the collapse of the Soviet Union to secure high enriched uranium. After his retirement from Sandia in 2011, he served as the Associate Lab Director for Clean Energy Initiatives at the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, SC until 2015.

Tom battled cancer for the last 13 years of his life. He was diagnosed with oral cancer in 2010, underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. His cancer returned in 2014 and he underwent a brutal 12-hour surgery to remove the cancer; with subsequent bone and skin grafts. In 2020 he underwent another lengthy surgery to improve the alignment of repairs from the previous surgery. And finally, this year, a tumor under his palate proved to be the final blow. Tom was a warrior through all these diagnoses and treatments. His fighting spirit was an inspiration to his family and doctors. Through everything Tom enjoyed retirement dividing time between his mountain home and his home in Port Aransas on the Texas coast. His children and grandchildren brought him great joy. Thomas Sanders will be greatly missed.

A Memorial Service will be held Friday, November 10, 2023, 10:30 a.m., at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 5301 Ponderosa Ave. NE.

In lieu of flowers please donate to Rio Grande Food Project Rio Grande Food Project - Rio Grande Food Project (networkforgood.com) 

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Friday, November 10, 2023

10:30 - 11:30 am (Mountain time)

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Friday, November 10, 2023

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