By David Schriemer, MD
Many in the Schoolcraft area will remember Sheila Sanborn. She was president of the Ladies Library for six years. She was an active member of the Schoolcraft Historical Society and its efforts to restore the Dr. Nathan Thomas house, the “Underground Railroad House”. She was a major contributor to the design of the logo of the Village of Schoolcraft. She won awards for the gardens and landscaping of her U Avenue home. She loved Schoolcraft and its people.
What many may not know, are the hardships that Sheila overcame. She grew up in a suburb of London. She was not quite 12 years old when England declared war on Germany in 1939. Her father had gone to serve in the war. She suffered a shrapnel injury during the blitz of London. Friends died. Many days were spent in bomb shelters. Her education was interrupted and she did not complete high school.
After the war, she immigrated to the United States. She was widowed at a young age, left to raise a child on her own, an ocean away from family. She found a job and Don Sanborn in Kalamazoo. They married and eventually settled in Schoolcraft where they raised two daughters, Sue and Liz. Sheila went back to school and received her high school diploma from Schoolcraft.
Sheila did not dwell on her past difficulties but on her blessings. Her daughter Sue relates, “I once mentioned to my mom how difficult her life had been. She was indignant. Her retort was ‘My life hasn’t been difficult, I had your Dad!’ And what a great dad and a great husband.”
Sheila died 12/6/08. Don Sanborn lives in Portage now but is still president of the Schoolcraft Historical Society. Sheila recorded her memories of WWII August 12, 2005. They are printed here in her words.