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Tributes offered at memorial for former Community Action head Jane Sanders

  • Richard Sanders, husband of Jane Sanders, speaks at her memorial service at Greenfield Community College Saturday, March 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Right, Attendees of Jane Sanders' memorial service at Greenfield Community College listen to the Amandla Chorus sing March 25. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Attendees of Jane Sanders' memorial service at Greenfield Community College listen friends and loved ones speak, Saturday, March 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • People listen to a speaker at Jane Sanders’ memorial service Saturday at Greenfield Community College. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Eveline MacDougall, founder of the Amandla Chorus, leads them in song at Jane Sanders' memorial service at Greenfield Community College, Saturday, March 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Lisa Ranghelli, of Greenfield and Carol Sartz, of Heath, embrace at Jane Sanders' memorial service at Greenfield Community College Saturday, March 25, 2017. Both Ranghelli and Sartz were connected with Sanders through her work. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Attendees of Jane Sanders' memorial service at Greenfield Community College listen friends and loved ones speak, Saturday, March 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Attendees of Jane Sanders' memorial service at Greenfield Community College listen friends and loved ones speak, Saturday, March 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Attendees of Jane Sanders' memorial service at Greenfield Community College listen friends and loved ones speak, Saturday, March 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • A quartet sings a song titled, "Smile" at the beginning of Jane Sanders' memorial service at Greenfield Community College, Saturday, March 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • People fill the dining commons at Greenfield Community College for Jane Sanders' memorial service Saturday, March 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • JANE SANDERS



Recorder Staff
Saturday, April 01, 2017

GREENFIELD — Nearly 100 men and women sang together in unison, their voices radiating from Greenfield Community College’s dining hall Saturday afternoon.

“When I think of Jane, I’m gonna let it shine,” they sang.

Family members, friends and colleagues of the late Jane Sanders, who led Community Action from 1996 to 2011, attended a memorial service in her honor, during which they shared memories of Sanders, who died Jan. 25 at the age of 62.

Under Sanders’ leadership, the antipoverty agency, which merged in 2005 with its Hampshire County counterpart to become Community Action of Franklin, Hampshire and North Quabbin Regions, quadrupled in size and created over 20 new programs, ultimately serving more than 27,000 people.

Being active in the community, Sanders also helped establish the Community Health Center of Franklin County and served on several boards, including the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board and the Massachusetts Association for Community Action.

Wendy Varner, who worked with Sanders for 13 years, remembered her as being “profoundly influential.”

“I feel so fortunate to have known Jane,” Varner said. “I learned so much from her.”

The Rev. Andrea Ayvazian described Sanders as a “radiant being” who acted as “an ally in struggles for justice and peace.” She was compassionate, fair and funny, others said.

“She was just such a dynamic, warm, strong, committed person,” said Jane Frey. Sanders was in her 20s when they met.

One of Sanders’ most frequently mentioned features was her captivating smile.

“Her smile was one of the most beautiful smiles I’ve ever seen,” said Gisele Litalien, who went on to sing “Smile” with the three other members of her quartet. “It just lit up the room.”

“She had the best sense of humor I ever encountered,” added Jane’s husband Richard Sanders, remembering her sometimes raunchy birthday cards.

Sanders’ primary care doctor Sarah Kemble, who knew Sanders for 20 years, recalled how she overcame medical challenges, such as being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a child, but from them grew an “iron will” and “fierce determination she carried until the end.”

“She told me it also opened her up to human suffering, and changed her life,” Kemble said.

That compassion is part of what brought community members together in Sanders’ honor, ensuring her tradition of building relationships that would live on.

“Jane, you were so much about team building and building relationships,” said Cate Woolner. “Look what you’ve done for us today.”

“It is the spirit of Jane that we’re celebrating here today that will live on through us,” Richard Sanders said.

Numerous attendees emphasized the importance of carrying on Sanders’ legacy.

“We honor Jane by loving each other, showing kindness and compassion,” Richard Sanders said, noting that her message would be “‘Don’t mourn for me, live for me.’”

“Let her spirit continue to help us in these times, to speak truth to power,” said Joan Featherman, who met Sanders about 35 years ago.

Though Sanders’ physical being may be gone, Ayvazian said, she “would never pass away.”

“We all carry the spark of her with us,” Ayvazian said.

The memorial services concluded with song, led by the Amandla Chorus, of which Sanders had been a member. In unison, everyone in the room sang an altered version of “Singing for Our Lives,” singing “We honor Jane with our work and love, and we are singing, singing for our lives.”

Donations in Sanders’ memory can be made to the Jane Sanders Community Action Fund for Women, Children and Families at Community Action, at 393 Main St., Greenfield, MA 01301.