Helen Lorraine Sanders-Tunnell, a proud mother, grandmother and great-grandmother whose lifetime passion was nurturing, died peacefully on January 9 in a Redwood City hospital after a brief illness. She was 90.
Helen, an El Sobrante resident, was born and raised in Richmond by her parents, William and Alma Barrett. She graduated from Richmond High School and attended classes for two years at San Francisco State College, now a university.
Helen was known for her sense of humor, kindness, optimism, giving nature, thirst for adventure, and a huge collection of family stories that she relished telling. She loved children, pets, Mother Nature, and get-togethers with loved ones. She also had a zest for reading, writing, and spiritual exploration and growth.
Even as a youngster, Helen saw homemaker as a noble goal and motherhood as her life’s calling. After marrying Jim Sanders in 1951, she excelled in raising seven children – six boys and a girl – in the Richmond-El Sobrante area.
Helen and Jim had known each other since grammar school and attended Richmond High School together, but their relationship blossomed while commuting to SF State together and they married while Jim was serving in the U.S. Navy.
Helen became a successful businesswoman after Jim’s death in 1979 ended 28 years of marriage. For years, she owned and operated a quick-printing and stationery business that had been created by her husband.
At her printing-stationery store one day, Helen met Jim Tunnell, whom she later fell in love with and married in the early 1980s. Their union lasted more than two decades, all spent in El Sobrante.
Helen is survived by five sons – Steve, Jim, Domenic, Brian and David Sanders, and by a daughter, Lynette Rivard. She also is survived by a son-in-law, Kevin Rivard, and by five daughters-in-law, Lindy, Betty, Barbara, Nancy and Rhonda Sanders, the latter married to Helen’s son Keith, who preceded her in death. Sixteen grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren will miss Helen as well.
She will be interred at Rolling Hills Memorial Park in Richmond. In lieu of funeral services, a celebration of her life will be held this spring. Details are pending. Helen’s family is thankful for and grateful to all her friends who have reached out with kindness, consideration, and expressions of sympathy.
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