Sanders Nursery founder Sam Sanders dies at 96
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Thursday, August 30, 2012
8/30/12 at 3:35 AM
INOLA - When he set out to plant his first crop of evergreens, Sam Sanders didn't have to look far to find some helping hands.
By then, he was raising a few saplings of his own.
He and his wife had nine children, and each of them would not only share in the work but also reap the rewards.
Later, when Sanders' idea had grown into a big-time business, Sanders Nursery, it remained a family enterprise.
Founded as a retail-wholesale tree nursery, Sanders' company is now in its 44th year in Inola.
His sons are still carrying on with the same approach they learned from their father.
"He didn't know nothing but hard work," said Sanders' oldest son, Jack Sanders.
It was the key to his father's success, he said.
"You don't have to have a lot of education, but you've got to work hard. And you've got to be a little hard-headed and stubborn," he said.
Samuel Houston "Sam" Sanders died Aug. 22. He was 96. A service was held Saturday at Green Country Funeral Home in Tahlequah.
Strictly a tree-growing operation now, Sanders Wholesale Nursery is still run by three of Sanders' sons. Jack Sanders, 74, is president.
The family sold the company's retail side a few years ago. The new owner runs the Inola store and Sanders Nursery & Distribution Center in Broken Arrow.
Sam Sanders, who was one-quarter Cherokee Indian, grew up in the Caney and Wauhilla areas of Cherokee County.
He attended school in Caney before moving on to the Chilocco Indian School in north-central Oklahoma.
In 1950, Sanders began working for Ozark Nursery in Tahlequah.
Five years later, he took a chance that eventually paid off big. Despite having to go into debt to do so, he began growing his own nursery stock on the family farm near Caney.
It was something nobody else was doing at the time in Cherokee County. Ozark Nursery's growers were primarily in other states.
But in time, Sanders was able to begin supplying Ozark and other nurseries.
His sons helped him, and in 1968, when he started the nursery in Inola, they went into business with him.
The Sanders clan not only survived economic ups and downs but also thrived, specializing in shade trees and junipers.
As for Sam Sanders, shade time was not something he sought.
He liked to take an occasional vacation - but only occasionally, as work allowed, Jack Sanders said. Camping in Colorado was a favorite getaway.
He partially retired in 1984, but for the next two decades, he continued to work part time.
"Work was all he ever knew," Jack Sanders said.
Sam Sanders' survivors include eight children: Jack Sanders, Mitchell Sanders, Jim Sanders, Emma Bryant, Jerry Sanders, Sam Sanders, Martin Sanders and Herbert Sanders; a sister, Emma Pixley; 13 grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren; and 14 great-great-grandchildren.
Original Print Headline: Nursery owner's family roots run deep
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Sam Sanders of Inola, who founded Sanders Nursery, which became one of the largest nurseries of trees and shrubs in the state, died Aug. 22. He was 96. Courtesy