Nelson County, Virginia
By Tommy Stafford
I knew the day would eventually come. I’d have to write this very story about the passing of the legendary Paul Saunders, Sr. What I know about Paul is just a tiny bit the native Nelsonians living here for generations already know. Mr. Paul, as I would call him, has so much history it’s hard to even know where to start. It’s safe to say that he and his family’s impact on the county predates a lot of us. (You can read the history of the Saunders family here from their webpage – at the bottom) So, I’m not going to go down the road of his personal history. It’s been written about often, even in the pages of our print magazine from years ago.
I am simply writing about the man Yvette and I came to know shortly after moving from Tennessee to Nelson County back in 2004. We met Mr. Paul and quickly became friends with many of his sons, grandchildren, wives, and more. Our friend, the late Steve Crandall initially introduced us and said, “You’ve got to meet all of these Saunders, they are an amazing family.” Steve was right. One of Mr. Paul’s sons, Tom, spent two hunting seasons teaching Yvette how to deer and turkey hunt. Something she still does every single year.
Probably one of the biggest compliments one could ever be given is when Mr. Paul asked Yvette to write the back cover to his Heartbeats of Nelson book released not long after we founded then Nelson County Life Magazine in 2005.
Mr. Paul would go on to write another book years later called, Down on the Farm.
If there was ever a man that loved Nelson County, it was Paul Saunders. He would often be seen at the Saunders Brothers Farm Market each season walking around and greeting people passing through. Anytime he’d see us in there with Adam or Peyton as little kids he’d stop us and say, “Come here, let me get those children a scoop of ice cream.” He’d never let us pay him. I don’t know how many scoops they had over the years, but more than I could count!
Above a video that was recently produced for Saunders about their legacy. It was actually done before Mr. Paul’s passing, but timely and the end reedited in light of his passing.
Over the years we got to know Mr. Paul and all of his family even more. They’d often invite us to get togethers and such, just to make us “come heres” feel welcome and a part of the Nelson he loved so much.
I don’t remember the last exact time I saw Mr. Paul in person. It might have been a few years ago when we went to his son Tom’s house and had supper while a football game was on TV. I just remember him as always being a man that was inclusive and kind. And, truly loving his family, and what he did.
Mr. Paul leaves a legacy. He joins some of the other Nelson greats that passed before him, such as Earl Hamner, Jr.
I’ll end this post with something Mr. Paul told me in an interview we did with him back in November 2006 as he was getting Heartbeats of Nelson ready to eventually distribute. It pretty much sums up how this great man felt about the county, and the people he loved so much.
“We think the almighty for making a place like Nelson County. The beauty we have here and the people we have here. It’s just been a blessing for people who have raised families here. It’s been a good life…it’s been a good life. You don’t have to go a hundred miles to have a good life, you’ve got it right here. Why run away from it.” Paul Saunders – November 2006
A good life indeed Mr. Paul. Well done. Now take a well much deserved rest. We’ll see you on the other side.