Sarasota has lost one of its biggest community advocates. John Sandefur, 78, died Sept. 17, after a battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
“He was one of the best voices that Sarasota could have had,” said longtime friend Gil Waters.
As chairman of the traffic-control group, Mobility Now, Sandefur could frequently be found in the City Commission Chambers pushing commissioners to relieve traffic congestion along the bayfront.
“He really stood up for the right things to do with our infrastructure,” said Waters, also a Mobility Now member. “He was one of the senior visionaries in our community.”
Born in 1931, in Columbus, Ohio, Sandefur worked as a developer and builder in his hometown.
Community involvement was a lifelong pursuit for him.
“When we lived in Columbus, he was involved in organizations that bettered the community,” said Sandefur’s wife of 55 years, Tana. “He felt everyone had a strong obligation to better their community.”
When he moved to Sarasota in 1981, he brought that sense of obligation with him.
Sandefur served as president of four condo associations, a member of the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Foundation board and a trustee of the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals named Sandefur the outstanding philanthropist of 2008. He has also been recognized by the Salvation Army and Circus Sarasota for his support of those organizations.
Sandefur and Waters and Mobility Now members Bob Johnson, Bob Tate and Bob Peterson were featured in a Jan. 15 Sarasota Observer story on their monthly get-togethers known by the endearing name “Old Coots Lunch Bunch.”
The five men would frequently talk about how they could stop the city’s bayfront-connectivity plan, which called for several roundabouts on U.S. 41.
“We’ll never get off the keys if they continue with these things,” Sandefur said at the time.
Sports were also an important part of Sandefur’s life. He was proud of his work as a tennis umpire at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open for 17 years.
Sandefur is survived by his wife, Tana, daughters, Debra and Jane, and three grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, at the United Methodist Church at 104 South Pineapple Ave.
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