Former Port Isabel Mayor, Leo Floyd “Speck” Sanders died, Monday, June 18, 2018 at age 90, after a brief illness.
He was born in Taylor, Texas on November 12, 1927 to Mary Lizzie Beth Robbins and Charlie Willie Sanders, the youngest boy in a family of three boys and four girls. After graduating from Taylor High School in 1945, Leo was one of the many thousands of young men his age who were drafted into the United States Army during World War II. After serving his Country, he was honorably discharged from the Army in 1947, and became a proud Texas Christian University Horned Frog, playing college football from 1947 – 1950. In 1952, he accepted a job with Delhi-Taylor Oil Corporation which brought him to Port Isabel where he would meet and marry the love of his life, Nancy Lee Varnam, build a real estate and insurance business and raise a family.
Leo Sanders was elected Mayor of Port Isabel and served from 1966 to 1970 and again from 1972 to 1976. He was also appointed as Interim City Manager of Port Isabel from 1989 to 1992. He volunteered and served on numerous community boards and committees over the years including the Point Isabel Independent School District Board of Trustees (1956-1962), the Laguna Madre Water District (1977-1979); was an originating member of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council (1966) and the Texas Coastal Management & Development Council (1975); and served on the Cameron County Border Law Enforcement & Immigration Reform Committee, the Cameron County Housing Finance Committee, the Cameron County Dust Control Committee (during the 1960s to the 1970s), the Cameron and Willacy Counties Community Projects, Inc. (during the 1970s), the Lighthouse Steering Committee (1985), the Port Isabel Charter Commission (1983), the Port Isabel Seawall and Dredging Committee (1997 to 1998), the Port Isabel Comprehensive Plan Committee (2007), and the South Padre Island Historic Preservation Committee from 2007 to 2017.
He was instrumental in organizing the community of South Padre Island into an incorporated town and as Mayor of Port Isabel worked closely with the Cameron County Commissioners Court and the State Highway Department (TXDOT) in the construction of the Queen Isabella Causeway. His work and contributions as an elected official and community volunteer helped in the development of Port Isabel and South Padre Island as major tourist destinations. He wishes to be remembered for his significant work, contributions, and personal sacrifices in the rebuilding of Port Isabel and the surrounding communities of South Padre Island, Laguna Heights, and Laguna Vista after the devastating storm of 1967, Hurricane Beulah.
In 2016, he was named to the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame in recognition of his many civic contributions to the City of Port Isabel, the Rio Grande Valley, and the State of Texas.
Leo Sanders is survived by his loving and devoted wife of 64 years, Nancy Lee Varnam Sanders; his 4 children, Melanie Sanders Hartmann (Gordon), Virginia Sanders Guillot (Ronald), Bonnie Sanders Palmer (David), and Leo Travis Sanders (Suzanne); 9 grandchildren, Adam Hartmann, Lynda Hartmann, Lyndsy Hartmann, Christopher Sanders Palmer, Jacques Guillot, Virginia Sanders, Charles Sanders, Robert Sanders, and Caroline Sanders; and one great grandson Loki Alexander Martinez; along with numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and inlaws.
He was preceded in death by his parents and all six of his siblings, Willie, Irene, Gertie, Lela, Virgil, and Rosalie.
Visitation will be from 8:30 am to 10: 00 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Port Isabel, 101 W. Adams Street, followed by the Funeral Service at 10:00 a.m. and burial to follow at the Port Isabel Cemetery.