DURHAM – Earl Allen Sanders passed away at home on June 26, 2015, after an extended illness, complicated by Alzheimer’s disease. Born on October 5, 1929, in Abbeville, SC, Earl grew up in Evanston, IL. He was gradated from Evanston High School in 1946, studied at Morehouse College, and received a BA and MA in Music Education from Roosevelt University in 1951 and 1956, respectively. Earl was a veteran of the Korean Conflict, having served in the United States Air Force. He was teaching at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, when he met and fell in love with Arthrell P. Dupree. The couple married on August 24, 1957, in Arthrell’s home town, Farmville, NC. The couple moved to Durham, NC, in 1960 to teach at North Carolina Central University, then North Carolina College at Durham. Earl taught in the Department of Music until his retirement in 1990.
According to his mother, Earl was three years old when he insisted she buy him his first violin; it was a toy. Later he acquired a real violin and took private lessons at home. He was a member of the Evanston High School Orchestra and continued to study music at the Juilliard School and at Indiana University at Bloomington.
While on the faculty at NCCU, Earl taught courses in music history, strings, and music theory, and gave private violin lessons. He was also in charge of the Lyceum* program that brought nationally and internationally known artists and performers to NCCU’s campus. Earl was an active performer, playing with the Greensboro Symphony, the Lynchburg Symphony, and the Durham Savoyards, and periodically giving solo recitals. He was frequently a member of pit orchestras, accompanying musical theater performances in the area and across the state, including performances at Duke University, and was for years a member of the pastoral orchestra for Duke University’s annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. Additionally he organized an ensemble that performed excerpts from Messiah at black churches in Tarboro, NC. In the mid-1960s he formed the North Carolina Piano Trio with Lilian Pruett, piano, and Mary G. White, cello. This group performed locally and throughout the state. He taught strings at St. Augustine’s College and offered introduction to strings lectures/demonstrations in elementary schools in Durham. With a group of former students in the Triangle area, he organized the Bridgetower Chamber String Ensemble. He gave special attention to choices of the music that he gladly played at weddings and at funerals of family members and friends. When he was not teaching, practicing or performing, Earl loved to read. His lectures in the history of American music led him to a love of U.S. Civil War history. After retiring, he read histories of the Civil War voraciously and toured several Civil War battle sites.
From 1974 until the mid-’90, Earl practiced being a gentlemen farmer, raising cattle, chickens, and vegetables. Early in 2009, he and Arthrell planted an acre of pine trees, their Obama trees, which was the beginning of their tree farm. Earl enjoyed doing household repairs and being his own mechanic for his automobiles and farm machines. He loved big dogs and was never satisfied with just one. He liked watching sports, especially football and baseball. He was a die-hard Chicago Cubs and Durham Bulls fan.
Earl lives on in the hearts and minds of his wife Arthrell; daughter Claire Sanders and husband Burton Balfour; son Mark and wife Kimberly; two grandsons, Isaiah and Joshua; cousins Daisy McZier Keel, Juanita McZier Shepherd, and Arthur McZier, who for a time lived with Earl’s family, taking the role of siblings; brother-in-law William Henry Dupree; niece Angela Dupree Roberson, her husband, Jonathan, and their daughter, niece Nicole Roberson Gray and husband, Kyle; cousin Margo Ann Dupree; god-daughter Ebony Bailey Boniti, husband Gabriel, and their young daughters Naomi, Grace, and Sara-Lycia. In addition there are numerous other relatives and friends who cherish his memory. Most special among these are Roy King Jr., a friend from childhood; Durhamites Howard Fitts, who in 1960 became an extended family member; Wayne and Patsy Perry; Walter M. Brown; and Meri-Li Douglas; Wilbert Torain of Rougemont; Marvin and Joanna Mitchell of Mebane; and, from courtship and early teaching days at Spelman, Joyce Finch and Aaron Johnson.
During the last months of his illness, Earl became a music teacher again, drilling caregivers Joan Cozart, Stanley Nwabinwe, Eleanor Dillard, and members of his Transitions Hospice Team, sometimes relentlessly.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, July 6, 2015, at 11:30 a.m. in the Music Recital Hall in the Ruth Edwards Music Building at NCCU.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to the North Carolina Central University Foundation – Sanders Endowment Scholarship Fund (Post Office Box 19363 Durham, NC 27707 at https://www.nccu.edu/donation/, or to Transitions Life Care, 250 Hospice Circle, Raleigh, NC 27607 at http://transitionslifecare.org/donate/.
Arrangements entrusted to Fisher Funeral Parlor.
(This obituary published by The Herald-Sun on July 4.)
*A listing of Lyceum events dating back to 1910 may be found in a PDF document here.