Sylvia Sanders Memorial Guestbook

Did you know Sylvia?

We'd really like to hear from you!

Please share any thoughts, comments, anecdotes or memories of Sylvia to this online guestbook.

To add a contribution to this guestbook, just send your message in an e-mail to Richard Sanders at


View the Memory Wall, for handwritten notes and anecdotes about Sylvia's life that were written at her Memorial Service.

Richard Sanders
Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT)

Thanks for visiting her memorial website and for taking the time to place a comment in this guestbook. Your contribution here is important to us. I hope you will take some time to leave a message of peace, to share some of your thoughts and feelings, or to recount a story or anecdote that will help us all to remember her. Please return again to read the remembrances that others have left. And, if you are moved to do so, you can always leave another message!

We will miss her love and understanding, her profound caring and concern for others, her insights and experience, her quick wit and wisdom, her unswerving courage, her strength in the face of adversity, her strong personal commitment and sense of social responsibility, and her unwavering perseverance to continue the work for peace which is so often belittled, discounted and ignored.

For over six full decades, my Mom and Dad were a team, and they worked incessantly. For five of those decades, my Mom's main passion in life (besides her deep love for my Dad!) was the drive to make the world a better place. Her focus in that ongoing struggle was on opposing war and injustice. She sought to alleviate, in whatever small way she could, the terrible suffering that has been associated with these scourges of humankind for millennia. In her relentless efforts to promote peace and human rights, she touched many lives, made many friends and acquaintances, and forged some deep, long-lasting relationships.

I imagine that you may be one of the people who shared her vision of a better world. Welcome!

Vern and Genya Johnson
We met Roy and Sylvia for the first time in Cuba in Varadero. About 20 years ago. At once we knew we had met truly kindred spirits who shared a belief in the many positive benefits of the Cuban Revolution. We played tennis together, drove together to Havana, and shared many delightful moments on the beach. Sylvia was a delightful counterbalance to Roy's serious demeanor. She was ebullient, curious, wonderfully amusing, energetic, very intelligent and always challenging those around her to think of positive solutions to the world's problems.
The following summer it was our pleasure to accompany she and Roy on a car journey from Edmonton and thence to Prince George (our home) and to Prince Rupert and then on a sea-voyage down the inside passage to Vcr. Island and back to Vcr.
Sylvia was an activist, highly socially conscious and  always a fighter for peace and thus our steadfast friend. We grieve now that she is gone. Sylvia, we will not forget you.

Paul Gross

My deepest condolences to the Sanders family. I knew Sylvia was an amazing women dedicated to her family and to humanity. But I am even more impressed after learning more about her from the memorial site.

Ron Burton

Very sorry to hear of Sylvia's passing. I worked with Roy at the NRC in the 60's I really didn't know Sylvia, but after reading about her life I wish I had.

Len Bush

My sincerest condolences to the Sanders family. I don't remember when I first met Sylvia. It was probably during preparations for the 1989 ARMX protest. I do recall being struck by her commitment and dedication. She inspired many of us younger activists. Her commitment sometimes put many of us to shame. But I think my strongest impression of her is the close bond that existed between her and her son, my friend, Richard. I have sometimes envied them the friendship and shared purpose they had. While surprised by some of the details of her life in many ways I am not. A woman possessed with as much strength of character as Sylvia had couldn't help but lead an interesting and varied life. Peace

Irene Gale
Australian Peace Committee

I am terribly sorry to hear this sad news.

Only meeting Sylvia once was enough to know what a completely good person she was, and to see the entire loving atmosphere that existed in their home.

I felt as though we had been friends all our lives, perhaps partly because it was evident that we had all worked together on the same or similar issues throughout our lives, despite not knowing of the others' existence before then. There was an immediate comradely acceptance and welcome into their home. It's a feeling I have experienced with dedicated, caring activists all over the world. Not a lot needs to be said before feeling at one with each other.

I have enjoyed looking through all the photographs. Thanks to whoever organised that. It's a great way to give an overview of a person's life, and of those around them. It's easy to see that Sylvia and Roy combined to bring together a warm and happy family and group of friends.

I feel sure that together you will all go on feeling Sylvia's influence and comfort, whilst continuing to work to achieve the sort of world she wanted.

My love to you all.

Elaine and Randal Marlin

What stands out in our minds about Sylvia is her absolute steadfastness in support of the peace movement. Her very dignified, friendly, loving and wise expression could easily lead people to - in the word used by a current archenemy - "misunderestimate" her. We are currently in Japan, visiting the peace memorials of Hiroshima and Osaka, and getting an extended insight into the viewpoint of the victims of the catastrophic firestorm bombing of the latter city and the huge repercussions of the former. All the justifications for the use of these methods of destruction sound exceedingly hollow in the light of the graphic impact of this testimony. We see how greatly Sylvia's inspiration is needed today to. prevent a repetition of these disasters, one of the chief enemies being indifference and complacency.

Alma Norman

I didn't know Sylvia Sanders personally, but I knew of her work and her influence through the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) - and through the untiring efforts of her son Richard to educate us about the vital choice between Peace and War. Sylvia Sanders is physically gone from us, but her spirit, her teachings and her inspiration live on. To my thinking that is true immortality.

May her work bear fruit and, as we say in Hebrew, "May her memory be a blessing."

Joan Hadrill

Peter and I met Sylvia, Roy and Richard Sanders on a trip to the Soviet Union in the '80'a at the height of the Cold War. We all thought it was so silly that the West was painting every Soviet person as our enemy and we went as ambassadors of Peace.

Sylvia immediately struck a cord with me being such a warm person and she had such an infectious laugh and great sense of humour. As a parent, I can't help sometimes judging people by their offspring. The fact that Richard has dedicated his life to work for peace all these years is one of the best testaments to his parents. They set an example for him.

Sylvia also helped us start a Raging Granny group in Montreal in 1989.

George Wilkes and Norman Dahl
Canadian Tribute to Human Rights

Norman and I found working with Sylvia way back in the CCND campaign both inspiring and enjoyable. That work led us to work with the other fine people forming the group that built the Human Rights Monument. As one of our favourite charities we're making a donation to the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights in memory of Sylvia and her legacy.

Rev. Frances Deverell
Minister, UU Fellowship of Ottawa

Dear Sanders family; has been my great privilege to get to know Roy and Sylvia in this past year. I know I didn't get to see her at her best, at the height of her activism, but I did fall victim to her warmth, her charm and her sense of humour -- no mean feat when you are trapped in bed, in constant pain. I never left that house without feeling that I was taking away more than I was giving. Blessings to all of you.

Dick Piper

It was great to know Sylvia and her enthusiasm for and dedication to Peace amd Disarmament. I'm glad Sylvia had a long life and a family although I only know Richard and a great partner. Best wishes to all her loved ones.

Howard Breen
Gabriola Island, B.C.

Dear Roy, Richard, and Susan (and others in Sylvia's family circle of love)

My heart goes out to you all.

It was my great privilege and joy to have known and joined arms with Sylvia. Your loss is incalculable. The movement has lost a most tireless leader, and Canada, a national treasure.

May Sylvia's joy for a peaceful world embrace us now and forevermore.

Very Special hugs,

* Sylvia's site and pictures brighten my day.

Carole Sauve

Dear Richard and family, Our sincerest sympathies to you and your family during this difficult time. While I only met your mother a couple of times, her presence was illuminating. I know that she will continue to be present through your wonderful work for a more just world.

Warmest regards,
Carole, Richard, Nicolas, and Annabelle

Helmut Kuhn
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa

I only met Sylvia and Roy about 11 years ago. It’s hard for me to think of them as separate; from the first meeting they have always been to me a strong force for peace and social justice. I’m very fond of a 1997 photograph of Sylvia demonstrating across from the U.S. embassy for the closure of the School of the [...Americas...nooo] Assassins with Fred Cappuccino and a small group from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa. Remembering the “sing-a-longs” that she and Roy inspired at a Fellowship potluck several years ago and more recently several times around her bed in their living room will always be a source of pleasure and inspiration. Thank you Roy. Thank you Sylvia.

Nadine MacDonald
Friend of Wendy

I grew up in a very conservative and traditional home and, as the friend of Sylvia's youngest daughter, was inspired by a unique and forward thinking, artistic woman! She was not like any other woman I had known, and always encouraged independent thought and to not be satisfied with pat-answers. However, when I think of her, most often what I remember is her warm and charming smile and open embrace ... and her trust! She loved this earth and all it's beauty. And she loved her children and helped them to shine in their corner of the world. She was a lovely woman! Nadine MacDonald (Halifax, NS)

Theresa Moher
Sisters of Providence of St Vincent de Paul

I will remember Sylvia as a true friend. Her commitment to peace and justice was remarkable. It seemed that every ounce of her energy went into making a better world, a world of peace and harmony. No sacrifice, big or small was ever too much to promote that goal. Her dynamism to bring about change in which she firmly believed was catching. She was an inspiration to many people to follow her generosity and work to make a difference. Thank you, Sylvia.

Anneke Dubash

Sylvia will be greatly missed. She was always a warm spirit at the UU Fellowship of Ottawa. She loved a good laugh and her love of music was always apparent.

Angela Winstanley

I am so sorry to hear of the passing of 'Auntie Sylvia'. As one of the nieces in England, I did not see Sylvia and the family very often, but when we did, it was always a very special occasion. A sort of 'magic aura' surrounded our Canadian relatives, when I was a child, trying to imagine their lives abroad. Having learned more about Sylvia from this site, I appreciate more fully how strong the genetics are around music and art. I always believed that given opportunity I would like to get to know 'Auntie Sylvia and Uncle Sandy' better, and now appreciate our close association through music and art. What a delight also to see our grandparents' music shop and other family pictures I have not seen before. I can only say that I admire Sylvia tremendously for her achievements in life, and am proud of the family association. My sincere condolences to Heather, Richard and Wendy, and to your families, and of course to Uncle Sandy. I know that you have lost a treasure. I shall be thinking of you all on the 23rd. Once again, many thanks for the site Angela Winstanley( nee Hope)

Graham & Joy Fielder

Richard, You won't remember me but I started work at the National Research Council (NRC) on July 2nd, 1957, having emigrated from the UK a couple of days earlier and started working for your father - I retired from NRC 38 years later. The first project I worked on for him at NRC on Sussex Drive was published as paper on B/Y ratios in photometry. I later worked with him when he was producing the Canadian standard of light which then was defined as the melting point of platinum. In 1958, I think it was, Roy & Sylvia kindly invited my girlfriend Joy and I (now my wife of 50 years), to their cottage on Lake Pemichangan and we both have many happy memories of our first taste of the Canadian Wilderness and the kindness of Canadians. On one of our other trips there we were kept awake most of the night by a bawling kid - it was you! We also were at the cottage a couple of times when we had relatives visiting from the U.K.

I was sad to hear of the passing of your Mum whom I didn't know as well as your Dad, of course.

Esther and Robin Mathews
Vancouver, B.C.

Our cherished memory of Sylvia is of a rush-hour sit-in, November 1985, on Sussex Drive, Ottawa, at the External Affairs Bunker, to protest the Trudeau government's testing of the cruise missile (read "a weapon of mass destruction") for the U.S.Star Wars program. As we were dragged off into police cars, Sylvia had a case of uncontrolled giggles when a policeman locked his keys in his car and blocked off even more angry motorists. She was solid and fearless when we were arrested and continued to sing when we were put in jail -in our shared "cage". The polls, then as now, showed Canadians opposed testing of nuclear arms. Many, many will miss you - our singing companion "jail-bird". Now you are free.

Stephen Moore

My condolences, Richard, to you and your family on the loss of Sylvia. Earlier this fall, I attended a memorial service here in Regina of another life-long activist for peace and justice, Arthur Verrall, whose memorial service bore full witness to his commitment to his principles, and encouraged those who attended to carry on the struggle to build the world we all want to see. Every week, I'm on the 'demo' line with Arthur's widow, Catherine, and a number of our friends in the peace and environmental movement, carrying on that struggle. Though I did not know your mother, I feel certain from reading her bio, and from meeting you when you passed through Regina not long ago, that her influence will receive a similarly fitting and inspiring tribute on the 23rd. I'll be making a donation to the Regina Peace Council in your mother's honour. Best to you and yours at this difficult time.

Keith Shackleton, Diane Ziegler
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa

Our warmest thoughts and condolences to all the Sanders family. We have been inspired by Sylvia's dedication and courage in working for peace. On a number of occasions we have been privileged to sing with her, especially the peace and justice songs of Pete Seeger and others. She is much missed.

Penny Sanger
Educating for Peace

Years ago, when Sylvia was at those many and changing peace meetings, you could be sure she was the one with new ideas, as well as enthusiasm and complete confidence that this was something that needed and must be done to stop the war machine and its addicts. Whether people were simply writing letters, marching with placards and kids up the middle of Bank St to Parliament Hill, sitting down on the pavement outside the Department of External Affairs, or camping out overnight on the lawn in front of Parliament, you could count on her support. Now that I have read more about her life, thanks to her son Richard, I understand where some of this talent and drive to defeat the war mongers came from. She has asked us to carry on and we will. In different ways perhaps, but let's try to have the fun she brought to this work while we're at it. Thanks Sylvia.

Louise McDiarmid
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa

Sylvia was an inspiration to many of us who wanted to stand up for peace and justice but weren't sure we were strong enough to make our voices heard. She was so sweetly reasonable, yet unbending and unrelenting in her efforts to build a better world.

Joe and Blodwen Piercy

We have for many years appreciated Sylvia's strong commitment to peace, evident in every form of peace action that she could find to engage in, or create, to show governments that the public wants to end war and other violence. It was good to hear that she was still involved -- planning with Roy a distribution of leaflets and signs right up to her recent stroke.

We also think of her kindness and generosity. As an example, our rental lease was expiring in 1960, but our contractor could not finish our new house in time for us to move in. Sylvia and Roy had recently moved into their new house, and Sylvia immediately offered us the use of their former home, which was empty for a short while before the new owner took over. This kind offer tided us comfortably over a difficult situation. A few years later we enjoyed the use of their cottage for a week's holiday with our young children, appreciated by us all.

We will always have happy memories of Sylvia. Our best wishes go to Roy now, and to all their family.

David Blackwell

I first came to know Sylvia at UUFO Perkins lunches, which Sylvia and Roy organized at the time. I fondly recall our fun interchanges and the gentle leg-pulling about their "military" backgrounds and Roy's espying Sylvia marching in her uniform. We'll hugely miss you, Sylvia, and you will always be in our thoughts. I know (spouse) Judi joins me in expressing these sentiments.

Jan and Ria Heynen

It was our son, being part of the Armex protest in 1989, who knew Sylvia first. He talked about 'this amazing lady with grey hair who was dragged away by the police!' A few years later we met Sylvia and indeed found out what an amazing woman she was.

Deb Ellis
formerly Alliance for Non-Violent Action

I remember Sylvia getting arrested at civil disobedience actions against war and injustice, and how she seemed so dignified even in those very strange circumstances. She was a woman of great humour, great belief in a world where people didn't kill each other for profit, and great commitment to doing what she could toward making such a world a reality. It was a gift to have known her, and I'm very grateful that our paths crossed and travelled the same journey together for awhile. She will be missed, but the work she was doing will carry on. Thank you, Sylvia.

Mike Kaulbars
Peace and Environment Resource Centre

With the passing of Sylvia Ottawa has lost one of the corner stones of it's peace movement. ARMX was my introduction to witnessing principled, fearless opposition to all that is wrong, and I am grateful for the living example it provided to me for helping me make my own choices. Thank you and peace.

Manfred and Christel Paulun

Over the last three weeks we have recalled many memories of you, Sylvia, from our early connection in the 60s to our friendship to the present: summers at your family cottage - walks in the woods there and you teaching us about the natural environment - fishing and fun in the lake with the children - trips to the "farm" - family get togethers and sing songs; more recently, with our P. & P. group, discussions over scrumptious dinners, ping pong and bridge - and, of course, the demonstrations against war and injustice. Admittedly, though, we lacked your kind of dedicated fervour. We will remember you, dear Sylvia, for your total commitment to the cause and we will miss your infectious love for life and your quirky quick humour.

Lily and Clarence Dodd

To Dr. Leroy Sanders and family: I have known Sylvia since the early 60's through my husband, Clarence, who worked at NRC for thirty eight years in the same section as Roy. I have enjoyed Sylvia's company in her home, in our home, at our daughter's wedding, at all the different gatherings, at her cottage, telephone conversations and meeting her at the corner stores. We both had so much to talk about. We thought we could solve the problems of the world I am joyful at the different times during the course of conversation where I took a moment to tell her, in person, how much I liked her lovely blue eyes, her contagious smile, her always so gentle velvety voice. She was a grand lady and I shall miss her. Our sincere condolences. Till we meet again. Peace be with you.

John Hefler and Elaine Bisson

My memories of Sylvia primarily revolve around the times spent up at the Lake sitting in the living room in front of the big fireplace playing the Dictionary Game.  The focus of this activity was to share quality time together and to have fun.  I never recall any cut throat competition but rather laughter and adulation for the most creative and humorous definitions put forth. I also recall the times spent at your cottage with Andre and Marie and the kindness and generosity your family offered them. 
We found it very informative and interesting looking back over the extensive history of your mother and her many many contributions in trying to make this world a safer place for all Humanity.  Her accomplishments and efforts will live on forever…
Our deepest sympathies, to you and your family, 

Jean Friesen (Usher)

I was very sad to hear of Sylvia’s passing. Thank you for letting me know and for giving all of us a chance to be with you in spirit at the memorial service.

I knew Sylvia in 1971 when she persuaded me to run for the NDP in Carleton East. She took on the huge task of managing a campaign full of young enthusiastic people—loads of energy—but she was one of the few who knew what really needed to be done. I do remember her sitting at all hours in the campaign trailer organizing signs, fund raising and canvasses (this was in the days before phone canvasses) in the rural parts of the riding and in Ottawa. She organized a huge nomination meeting where Stephen Lewis spoke, debates with Bert Lawrence, campaign literature in English and French (unusual in those parts in those days) and dealt with a head office who had suspicions we might all be a bit radical.

She took the vote from 6% to 24%—a testimony to her determination, hard work and inspirational leadership.

I don’t think anyone who worked in that campaign forgot it—many friendships were formed and political ideals shaped and though not everyone remained active campaigners  I know that we remember those days and Sylvia with great affection.

With sympathy and condolences

(Editor's Note: Jean Friesen went on to become Deputy Premier of Manitoba and the NDP won Carleton East in the 1975 election.)

Allan Connolly MD
Physicians for Global Survival (Canada)

It is the spirit and inspiration that she had and shared with others that gives motive to we who remain optimistic that Peace is possible. Thank you Sylvia. Thank you for your son as the seam of peace work continues.

Donough O' Brien, Julie Lapalme, Fintan, Shane

We were sorry to hear of your mother's death and appreciate having the opportunity to view her life along with her families in these photographs. Through these photos you get a sense of her spirit and of how much her Husband cared for her. It is also clear that her passion for peace has becomes her son's passion. She led a full life and left behind a loving family. May she rest in peace.

Michael Ellis
Winchester, UK

I am Sylvia's nephew, through her sister Alberta ("Girly"). I remember Sylvia from the early 1940s when she was in the ATS (Women's Corps within British Army) and visited us frequently in Chester, UK. She was very glamorous and always cheerful. Regrettably, Alberta and Sylvia lost touch when Sylvia emigrated to Canada. Reading these notes and tributes, I am very sorry that I didn't know Sylvia after I became an adult. She was obviously a remarkable woman, and I feel we would have got on well. I am proud to be a relative. With deep sympathy for her family and friends.

Robin A. Burgess
Ontario Voice of Women for Peace

As co-treasurer of the Ontario Voice of Women for Peace, I am eternally indebted to Sylvia for laying out the path and ushering in a new generation of peace makers!

Lyn Adamson
Co-Chair, Ontario Voice of Women for Peace

I would like to echo Robin's comments. I am inspired by Sylvia's activism, her passion and caring, and I am delighted to learn of her involvement in Voice of Women's early days. Thanks for letting us all know of her contributions to peace and disarmament. May we all be inspired by the example of her life.

Jo Wood

My sincere sympathy to the Sanders family for the loss of a wonderful person. I only met Sylvia on a few occasions when I joined with others in her home to stuff envelopes with the latest issue of Press for Conversion! magazine. She was a warm and calm light in the midst of all that activity. It was clear that she not only worked for peace and supported Richard's work with the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, but was a person of great inner peace.

Please add to Sylvia's Memorial Guestbook

Please share some thoughts, comments, anecdotes or memories about Sylvia, and/or contribute a message of peace to this online guestbook.

Please e-mail your message to Richard Sanders at and he will add your contribution to this guestbook.
(If you like, as well as leaving a message, you can identify yourself with a group affiliation or the city where you're located.)


View the Memory Wall, for handwritten notes and anecdotes about Sylvia's life that were written at her Memorial Service.



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Sylvia Sanders Memorial web page
Sylvia's Memorial Service