Community mourns loss of Stephen Sander

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>Philanthropist Stephen Sanders attended a ceremony last October at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater to officially open the new MIS suite he and his family helped pay for.</p>
  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>Stephen Sander was a school teacher in Bridgewater who went on to become a property mogul in British Columbia. He returned with family members, including his granddaughter Lexy Bannister, to officially open the new minimally invasive surgery suite he helped pay for for the South Shore Regional Hospital.</p>

Stephen Sander, the former Bridgewater Elementary School (BES) teacher who went on to become a Vancouver property magnate and philanthropist, has died.

Sander visited Bridgewater last October for the official opening of the South Shore Regional Hospital's new minimal invasive surgery (MIS) suite that he and his family helped pay for. Sander's original pledge of $1.2 million to the Town of Bridgewater enabled the new suite at the hospital.

"It's with a very heavy heart that we hear of the passing of Mr. Stephen Sander. Mr. Sander had a passion to give back to the Town of Bridgewater; the community which allowed him to start his life in Canada," the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore commented on its Facebook page on January 24.

The foundation said it was honoured when Sander, his family, and his company Hollyburn Properties donated $1-million "to make the Minimally Invasive Surgical Suite at South Shore Regional Hospital a reality.

"From having the pleasure of meeting him in October 2019, Mr. Sander was full of charm & wisdom, wanting to continue to say thank you to Bridgewater & its residents. The condolences of the Health Services Foundation team & board are with the Sander Family," the post continued.

The Sanders and their company also donated $200,000 for a playground at the current Bridgewater Elementary School.

Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell commented on Twitter "our community mourns the loss of one of its sons. Stephen Sander's legacy will live on as we remember what an incredible person he was."

Born in India, in what is now Pakistan, Sander immigrated to Canada in the early 1960s, and was hired as a physical education teacher at BES. In time, he left Nova Scotia and became a Vancouver real estate mogul. But he never forgot the encouragement and support he received from the people of the town Bridgewater, which he describes as his "second birth place."

Hollyburn named its flagship residential tower The Bridgewater.

In October, 2017, Sander called LighthouseNOW from Vancouver and declared to the newspaper, "I would like to donate some money ... So I thought first of all tell you, and you can spread the word."

Two years later, at the age of 86, he attended the ceremony opening the MIS suite at the Bridgewater hospital along with eight other members of his family, hospital officials and members of the media.

"This moment has been a long time in coming, but it has come. And I'm so proud that I am here with all of you wonderful people," Sander said. Shortly afterward, he broke into an improvised song, chanting, "My home town is Bridgewater."

With his granddaughter, Lexy Bannister, standing beside him holding his arm, Sander described some of the highlights of his life that took him from being a school teacher to founder of a multi-million dollar property company. He also spoke of the importance of giving back to those who help one in life.

"The point is, if somebody gives you something. You've got to give three times as much. You ought to," insisted Sander.

LighthouseNOW welcomed the opportunity to re-introduce Sander to the community and share his story and appreciation. The newspaper extends heartfelt condolences to the Sander family.

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