A Literary Trailblazer’s Solitary Death: Charles Saunders, 73

It fell to Mr. Kirksey to put together a sparse biography of Mr. Saunders for the Zoom memorial. Charles Robert Saunders was born on Jul...


It fell to Mr. Kirksey to put together a sparse biography of Mr. Saunders for the Zoom memorial.

Charles Robert Saunders was born on July 3, 1946, in Elizabeth, Pa., near Pittsburgh, and grew up there and in Norristown, Pa. In 1968 he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Lincoln University, west of Philadelphia.

The next year, he moved to Canada to avoid the draft and became a teacher. At the Zoom memorial, Janet LeRoy recalled the first time she saw him, when she was a student at Carleton University in Ontario in the 1970s and glimpsed him through a doorway, talking to his students. His physical stature — he was 6-foot-4 or so — made a distinct impression, as did his Afro and dashiki top.

“He looked like he’d stepped off the TV show ‘The Mod Squad,’” she said.

Three years later, she finally met him when they were both teaching at Algonquin College. They became fast friends.

“He was a giant of a man, but he had such a tender, quiet voice,” she said. “We could talk about the deepest, darkest moments in our lives, and Charles would find a way to say something that would make us both chuckle.”

At some point Mr. Saunders moved to Nova Scotia, and in 1989 he began working at The Daily News, editing and sometimes writing, including about issues facing the Black community there.

“He was so quiet,” Mr. Tattrie, speaking at the Zoom memorial, recalled of his presence in the newsroom. “He would never draw attention to himself. But you noticed him. You could just tell there was a depth to him, a richness, that you don’t find in many other people.”

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Newsrust: A Literary Trailblazer’s Solitary Death: Charles Saunders, 73
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