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A Legacy of Local History

Marion Reid and Milburn Sanders, lifetime residents of Great Falls, honored by cutting the cake on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Great Falls Historical Society, Feb. 19, 2008.

Marion Reid and Milburn Sanders, lifetime residents of Great Falls, honored by cutting the cake on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Great Falls Historical Society, Feb. 19, 2008. Photo Contributed

It is with great sadness that the Great Falls Historical Society notes the passing of its founder, Milburn P. Sanders, who died Sunday, Sept. 2.

Milburn founded the Great Falls Historical Society in the fifth decade of his life. He told me that he loved to archive and record things, and recording local history was a delight for him.

I met him once when I drove his wife, Ellen, to his assisted living facility in Fairfax for lunch. Although Milburn's body was on a trajectory of slow undoing that only those who have lived a very long life can know, his mind was lucid.

I told him that the Great Falls Historical Society was eagerly awaiting the release of his book. His eyes met mine. His eyes penetrated deep into my eyes. He did not need to say a single word. I heard his question, "Do you really mean it?"

Yes, Milburn, I said, gazing directly into his eyes. "Yes, we cannot wait for the moment when we will see, touch, read and enjoy your book. We are looking forward to your book." He did not need to say another word. His heart leapt with joy and his eyes sparkled with delight!

The wonderful delight of history is that such joy is passed forward. Katherine Burke, a GFHS summer intern, was researching the history of Dr. Alfred Leigh and the Leigh House, currently Dante's Restaurant. She sent me a delightful e-mail saying that she found a substantial file full of articles about Dr. Alfred Leigh in the files behind the information desk at the Great Fall Library. She was thrilled with her discovery. Those were Milburn's files that he clipped and assembled by hand, before the Internet, compiling articles of important local significance as part of his archival efforts.

So Milburn, your vision of the Great Falls Historical Society lives on, "To feel the pulse of earth where man has trod, and for the future, keep the past." The full legacy of your life can only be adequately measured when the full impact of your life is seen seven generations from now.