About 200 people turned up to Boyle Park Saturday to celebrate the life of a local Navy veteran who touched the lives of many Mancos residents.
Abe Saunders died at home on June 9 at age 86, surrounded by family and friends. He and his late wife ran a local bed and breakfast along with the A&A campground for years, and in addition to being a Korean War veteran, he was somewhat of a local troubadour — serenading locals on his 12-string guitar.
“Uncle Abe you will always be with us,” said Mancos Mayor Queenie Barz, his longtime friend, at the ceremony. “Thank you so much for being my friend, and my Uncle Abe.”
The June 20 service was held at the Boyle Park stage starting at noon. Chairs were propped in front of the stage for attendees to sit in, although many audience members sprawled in the grass too. A light breeze played with flower wreaths set up by the stage.
The ceremony was filled with memories of Saunders’ lively spirit — and many cowboy songs.
“This service is going to be full of music, because that’s who Abe was, and that’s what he wanted to do,” said Pastor Shane Prentice of the Mesa Trails Cowboy Church, who presided over the service.
Saunders, originally from Arizona, joined the U.S. Navy at age 17 and served in the Korean War on a destroyer ship.
He eventually made his way over to Mancos, and about 26 years ago, Saunders and his wife Alice purchased the historic Wrightsman House, operating a bed and breakfast there for several years. They also ran the A&A Mesa Verde RV Park and Campground (now Ancient Cedars RV Park).
He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5231, serving in the color guard.
At his memorial service, friends and family recalled Saunders’ joy and gratitude in life.
“Abe was so joyful and never complained,” said Pastor Prentice, adding that the man never failed to brighten his day.
Even in his last weeks, Saunders remained grateful for the life he had led, they said, and was ready to be reunited with his wife Alice, who died in 2015.
His tunes and musical presence have become renowned throughout the town of Mancos.
“I will miss him terribly around town,” local artist and musician Marilyn Kroeker told The Journal. “I have the Raven House Gallery in Mancos, and we actually have a designated chair for him to come in and sit and play guitar.”
He used to perform at Fenceline Cider in the afternoons too.
Kroeker visited Saunders in his final days, and said she was honored he had gifted her his bass and amps — along with the advice to “practice.”
His 12-string guitar was presented to local singing cowgirl Lynne Lewis, who performed with it at the Saturday ceremony.
And speakers recalled the love he and his wife Alice shared, the music they played together and the work they did together.
Following the memorial service, Saunders was taken to the Cedar Grove Cemetery in Mancos for interment, with military honors performed by the Veterans of Montezuma County. A slideshow with photos from Saunders’ life, shown at the ceremony, will also be posted online on the Mesa Trails Cowboy Church website.