A North St. Paul icon has disappeared from the scene

The passing of Frank Sanders was - and will continue to be - a blow to any and all who knew the "Gentle Giant". 

Sanders never - in his entire 62 years - lived in North St. Paul. Yet he became almost synonymous with the town. 

Sanders is a North High grad who spent his high school days at North and he starred in football and at hockey. He went on to marry another North grad and she became Kathy Sanders. For many years she served as the North athletic secretary. 

Kathy and Frank were very connected to North High. Frank returned from a career which saw him matriculate to the U of M where he became the captain of the Gophers hockey team. From there he passed up a possible lucrative contract with the Boston Bruins to join the U.S. Olympic hockey team. The team, in 1972, went onto to win a silver medal. 

Sanders returned to Oakdale and played for the newly formed St. Paul Fighting Saints in the World Hockey League. His coach for the Saints was the same as when he played at the U of M, Glen Sonmor. Sonmor once related that Frank could well have made it into the National Hockey League, but he wouldn't play on Sundays.

Sanders was the team - on every level he played - enforcer. He became known as the "Gentle Giant" because he so much respected his teammates and those members of the opposition, that he sometimes would beat some player to the ice and then later, make sure he apologized.  

In later years, then North coach Bill Halbrehder asked Sanders to come back to North and assist in coaching. Sanders jumped at the chance to give something back to his alma mater. 

Wherever Sanders went he touched people in a positive way. He ended his promising hockey career and entered the ministry. He formed a church in Woodbury and ministered to a growing congregation until he was taken from us -  at the young age of 62 - by a relentless bout with pancreatic cancer on Feb. 17. 

In this day and age, 62 is too young to die. Frank had a lot more to offer people -  both young and old - with whom he became a near instant role model. His life is over but the legend he left behind will linger for many years.

It made me recall something I read several years ago. It seems appropriate to relate it once more because it so aptly applies to Frank Sanders."A long life may not be good enough, but a good life is long enough." Frank Sanders' life was certainly - beyond even a shadow of a doubt - just that, "good enough!"

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