BRANDON, FL – The man responsible for helping countless Brandon area boys surmount the hurdles to obtaining Boy Scouting’s highest honor, the Eagle Scout, has died.
Longtime Brandon resident Stephen Irvin Saunders III died Monday, Feb. 26, at the age of 72.
A well-known community activist in Brandon, Saunders was especially dedicated to the Boy Scout program. He remained a Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 110 at Apostles Lutheran Church in Brandon long after his own son, Stephen IV, had become an adult.
He spent 20 years with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, retiring as a major for the sheriff’s detention department.
He was active at Apostles Lutheran Church and with the Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon, was a past chairman of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce and a member of the DeSoto Masonic Lodge 105.
Friends recall how, every January, he’d grow a beard in preparation for spending a weekend as a member of the Florida Frontiersmen of the American Mountain Men at the Fort Foster Rendezvous in Hillsborough River State Park. The fort is one of the original Seminole War forts from the 1800s. Dressed as soldiers and pioneers, historical re-enactors would spend a weekend living off the land like their ancestors.
During his 33 years in Brandon, he amassed nearly every honor the community has to offer including the Alice B. Tompkins Community Service Award from the Community Roundtable of Brandon, the Key Citizen Award from the Brandon chamber, the H.L. Culbreath Award from the Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the Southeast Hillsborough County Unit of the Gulf Ridge Council of Boy Scouts’ Soaring Eagle Distinguished Citizen Award.
Saunders also united the more than 100 Boy Scout troops in southeast Hillsborough County under the umbrella organization, Southeast Hillsborough Unit, and began the unit’s annual fundraising dinner.
There was hardly an event in Brandon that didn’t feature a flag presentation ceremony with Saunders’ distinctive booming voice directing members of Troop 110.
"Steve truly lived a life of service excellence," said friend Rick Lewis, president of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce. "Whether as a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, a major in the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, a Scoutmaster who mentored 146 Scouts to achieve Eagle, chairman of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce or leader of countless other causes, Steve excelled. He was grateful for the blessings in his life and lived to show his gratitude by making a difference for others every moment of every day. We all are better for having known Steve."
He is survived by his wife, Susan; son, Stephen I. Saunders IV; daughters, Elisabeth Anne Saunders and grandchildren, Mason Stephen Saunders and Emery Shea Saunders.
Memorial services have not been announced. Southern Funeral Care in Riverview is in charge of the arrangements.
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