Angels embraced Craig Saunders at sunrise on September 20, 2023. He passed away peacefully with his cherished wife Annie by his side.
Craig was born July 30, 1960 in Limestone, Maine to his father Thomas Saunders and his mother Judy Zeldenthuis Saunders. His father was stationed in Maine with the U.S. Army. His parents soon returned home to western Colorado.
After Craig graduated from Fruita Monuments High School he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1979. While in the Navy he travelled the world, met the love of his life, Ann (Annie) Hadden Saunders. They were married in Grand Junction while he was home on a short leave from the Navy. He deployed out to sea from San Diego, California right after their wedding. Annie moved to Coronado Beach, California waiting for his ship to return home, often running their big dog “Everest” on Coronado's “doggie beach” watching the Navy ships maneuvering in the distance.
Craig’s ship USS Rentz, a guided missile fast frigate was one of three U.S. naval vessels chosen to make history on November 6, 1986. Nine hundred American sailors were to be ambassadors on a week long port call in Qingdao, China to promote further military cooperation between the U.S. and China. Admiral James (Ace) Lyons and Commander in chief of the Pacific fleet met with Ma Xinchun, commander of China’s north fleet with much fanfare at the Chinese port. The last U.S. ship, USS Dixie, left on May 24,1949 just before communist troops entered the city.
From Coronado Craig and Annie moved to Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii where they immersed themselves into the Aloha culture of hula music surf, snorkeling, feasting on the beach, as well as visiting the other islands. They hiked volcanos, walked through lava tubes, climbed canyons to waterfalls, camped on the beach to experience a spectacular total eclipse of the sun rising from the ocean in 1991.
Craig earned his BSME college degree at University Hawaii Manoa. He served in the Gulf War, Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991 while stationed at Pearl Harbor.
After active duty, Craig and Annie returned to western Colorado where he served in the U.S. Navy Reserves. Instead of deploying to sea, Craig traded his world sea travels for land travels to many U.S. states, Venezuela, and the Virgin Islands working as a controls engineer in the power generation and refinery industries. Being a whiz in science, math, and chemistry, he poured himself into his work which he enjoyed so much.
Craig and Annie settled in southern Florida, enjoying their tropical garden, iguanas, turtles and abundant bird life for a few years before returning home to Grand Junction, Colorado.
Craig was devoted to his large furry family. He never met a homeless pet he did not want to adopt. His friends often mention his big heart. He was a storyteller of which many stories were actually true or simply funny. He has an ironic sense of humor and one would wonder “is he kidding or is he serious?”
He is from a four generation Colorado family and he enjoyed researching his family history. He dearly loved his grandparents, and spoke of them often before and after they passed away.
Loving the outdoors, he could not get enough of long mountain scenic drives, hiking with his dogs, searching for rocks, fossils, and petroglyphs. He studied and read a lot about world history, loved rodeo and his wife’s cooking. He told her he married her for her cooking. Mincemeat pie made with venison was his favorite.
He is survived by his wife Annie Saunders of Grand Junction, Colorado, by his mother Judy, sister Heather, and brother Scott Saunders of Fruita, Colorado. He is proceeded in death by his father Thomas Saunders in 2001. He is survived by the Zeldenthuis family of Crawford, Colorado. He is survived by the Serve and Munger families of Fruita and Arvada, Colorado.
He will be unbelievably missed by his family, his pets, all the many friends and coworkers he met along his adventurous path through life.
A military burial ceremony will be held on October 24, 2023 at 1 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado, located at 2830 Riverside Parkway, Grand Junction, Colorado, 81501.
Friends and family welcome.
In lieu of flowers, you can make a memorial contribution for a memorial tree to be planted at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in honor of Craig Saunders’ memory.
Contributions for the tree fund can be sent to the Saunders family. Contact Annie Saunders for details for a tree from a local Grand Junction nursery to be planted in the Spring of 2024. (Cemetery is shutting down irrigation until Spring.)