Mary Dunn (“Polly”) Vandeventer Saunders

Mary Dunn (“Polly”) Vandeventer Saunders died on June 28, 2022. She was born in Norfolk in 1924. Polly was the daughter of Phelan Ruffin and Braden Vandeventer. She was predeceased by her parents and her husband Robert (“Bob”) Saunders and her brother, Braden Vandeventer Jr.

Polly loved growing up in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. She was devoted to her lifelong friends and her cousin, Kirkland Tucker Clarkson, who was like a sister to her. She attended the Graham School in Norfolk, the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, PA, and Sweet Briar College, where she majored in music. After working in the library at ODU, Polly headed for New York, where she worked for several years, at Union Theological Seminary and Boosey & Hawks music publishing company. Her big city days ended when Bob Saunders of Newport News convinced her to marry him and return to Tidewater.

Polly loved Newport News. She was active in St. Andrews Episcopal Church, the Warwick Garden Club, and as a volunteer at Contact Peninsula and the Peninsula Fine Arts Center. A cherished role was working as a tour guide for school groups in Colonial Williamsburg, which encompassed her love of history and people. Polly loved reading, golf, tennis, music, travel and animals. Later in life, Polly was devoted to two schnauzers, Alfie then Scottie. An accomplished piano player, Polly played for residents at local nursing homes well into her 80s.

In 2004, after the loss of her beloved Bob, Polly moved to the Chesapeake retirement community, where she became friends with many residents and staff. Polly said of the staff, “I can’t express enough my feelings of gratitude to the staff of the Chesapeake. They are all like old friends who helped me through it all. Their good humor and encouragement, even when they are worn out, is amazing.”

Upon reflection on life, Polly wrote, “My life has been so full. It has been a good life. Life is incredible, and I marvel at the wonder and mystery of it. I believe more and more that our connection with people is at the heart of it all, as well as respect and love for all living creatures.”

A woman of faith, she questioned and read constantly as she sought to grow and understand. She loved Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Her joy in life and love for people were contagious.

Polly is survived by her daughter Eliza Saunders, of Alexandria, Virginia, her son, Rob Saunders and wife Melissa, of Orlean, Virginia, and their children, Joe of Charlotte, NC, and Grace of Washington, DC.

A memorial service will be held at 1pm on July 16 at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 45 Main Street, Newport News, VA.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Andrews Episcopal Church or the Peninsula SPCA.


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