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Bob Sanford was a man with many loves: his family, his church, his community, and Jackson County Habitat for Humanity.

Bob was born on March 15, 1939, in Los Angeles, California, but moved to Port St. Richey, Florida, when he was five years old. He lived in Florida until he joined the U.S. Army at the age of 18. After his discharge from the Army, he briefly edited a newspaper in Winnemucca, Utah, before deciding to join his brother, Bill, who was at the time a scholarship athlete at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi.

While at MSU, Bob met Peggy Powell, and they married in 1967, soon after finishing school. The couple lived briefly in Panama City before moving to Los Angeles to be nearer to Bob’s mother Betsy. Jacob was born there on October 17, 1972, while Bob was editor of Cycle News, a motorcycle newspaper. During that time, Bob published his book, Riding the Dirt.

After Jacob’s birth, the call of the South brought the family back to Florida, looking for a good place to raise children. Marianna was that place and was forever after Bob’s true home. Daniel was born in Jackson Hospital on November 4, 1973. Bob worked at the Jackson County Floridan and later at the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. He was on the session of First Presbyterian Church, was a City Commissioner and Mayor of Marianna.

For several years, he and Peggy taught an adult Sunday School class at First Presbyterian. The focus of the class was Christian involvement in current events. Bob’s particular interest was in acting to make his adopted community a better place for all the people who lived there, no matter their social standing. He had little patience for idle talking about making improvements: he wanted to be a part of concrete, specific undertakings. He cared very much about improving race relations and about reaching out to those who needed a hand up to improve their lot in life. At the same time, he was fiercely aware that many who found themselves and their families in need of help were resourceful, strong people who could not only help themselves but others if only given an opportunity.

Habitat for Humanity was a perfect fit for Bob’s intelligence, energy, and imagination. Its self-help underpinnings, expecting those who receive the new houses at no-interest mortgages to be partners rather than recipients or clients, exactly pleased him. Unfortunately, there was no Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Jackson County at the time, and there were many who doubted that one could ever be established, given the broad divisions between the races and the deep suspicion about social programs that then existed.

A challenge! Bob loved it and met it head-on, backed by his friend and co-worker Janet Harns, his wife Peggy, and the Sunday School class, among the many others from other denominations who joined in the effort. Not only was he instrumental in getting the affiliate chartered, he was the organizer, along with Bill Wimberly, in accomplishing the first (and to date only) house-in-a-week build in Jackson County.

From the beginning, and fairly uniquely among Habitat affiliates, Jackson County Habitat for Humanity was overtly committed to representation drawn across racial lines both on its Board of Directors and among the families partnering to receive houses.

Bob’s success in meeting the challenge is demonstrated by the continued and increased vitality of the local affiliate, now building and dedicating its 47th house. It is fitting that this house is dedicated to him and to his efforts, for though he died nearly 20 years ago his influence is alive in the volunteers who give, the families who partner, and the community that benefits from the work of Jackson County Habitat for Humanity.

Robert Andrew Sanford
March 15, 1939 - May 2, 1993