by Henry Lane Hull
In 1974 my parents purchased a station wagon from Haydon Pontiac in Kilmarnock. Over the ensuing 20 years they, and then I, drove the car 287,000 miles; it was the best vehicle we ever had.
As time passed Haydon Pontiac became Russell Pontiac and moved from Main Street up to new quarters north of town. The proprietors, Richard and Anne Russell, were known for their high level of personal service and they attracted employees who shared in that commitment.
Andy Saunders came to work for the Russells from his previous employment at the old Sylvia Motors in Burgess. Andy was a superb mechanic, one who understood every aspect of a motor vehicle. He thrived on complex problems, from the initial diagnosis, through the repair and on to seeing the vehicle “as good as new.” He was steadfast in his work, viewing each task as an assignment he could master. His patience was legendary, as was the good cheer with which he undertook each case.
In his work Andy went far beyond handling the “nuts and bolts” of automotive service. He shared with the Russells their commitment that every car that left their premises was in safe working condition. Car service at the Russell establishment was a personal matter. Andy especially liked speaking with the customers, telling them in detail what he had done by way of repair or service and what he recommended for future care. He never was satisfied to send the car along on its way without that final recap.
Andy stayed on after Richard and Anne sold the business and retired in 1990, thereby ending an era of automotive history in Kilmarnock. The new owners closed the business several years later and Andy went to work at Bay Auto Service, where he stayed for 16 years until he retired again, to all of his customers’ dismay, in 2011.
My connection with Andy was not solely automotive. In 1978 I ordered 100 Norway spruce seedlings, which despite my good intentions, I did not get planted in the places I had planned for them. Consequently, I heeled them in across a large part of the garden, certain that I would replant them later. Some I did replant, but most I did not.
Five years later, they were of nice size and shape, and recognizing that they were not going to be replanted, I placed an ad in the Rappahannock Record for Christmas trees.
My first customer was Andy Saunders, who for a number of years came to buy his tree each Christmas. We would cut it together and then visit for a while, before he was off to get it set up. He used to say his wife was very particular about their tree and he was happy that mine were well shaped. He lived at Brown’s Store and his house was decorated very nicely for Christmas with the tree being the centerpiece.
I did not replant the Christmas tree farm and as the years passed the trees grew well, eventually becoming too large to be moved. I told Andy that I thought they were at the end of their commercial potential, and he told me that his wife had decided to go with an artificial tree. At the same time they built a new house behind their older home. Whenever we saw each other thereafter we would reminisce about our Christmas tree days together.
Andy had served in the military during the Vietnam War and began his mechanical career upon coming home. He was a genuinely good person in all aspects of his life, a young man who served his country, and returned to serve his customers and friends with his knowledge and ability. He was modest in all that he said and did, but utterly confident in his profession, knowing that his skills were essential in serving his clients, as their safety depended on him.
Last week Andy died at the age of 69, having led an exemplary life of service to others.
Andy Walter Saunders Sr., August 15, 1949 – January 24, 2019. R.I.P.