Michael Sanders, 73, of Wellford, passed away early Wednesday morning after a brief illness. Sanders grew up in Union and enlisted in the Army after graduating from Union High School. He went on to become a Green Beret and served two tours in Vietnam, earning several special forces accolades. After the Army, Sanders returned to the Upstate and worked for the post office. He went to USC-Spartanburg and eventually earned a Master’s degree in social work from the University of South Carolina in Columbia. During his career as a social worker, Sanders helped countless people. He had a special place in his heart for clients fighting mental illness. He discovered early on that one of the best ways to help them was to get them involved in the study of martial arts, which gave them a new sense of confidence, purpose and self-worth. In the martial arts community, Sanders became an American legend, opening one of South Carolina’s first karate schools in the 1970s. At one point in the 1980’s Sanders ran karate schools in Greenville, Spartanburg and Union Counties, all the while working full-time as a social worker. In his 50+ years in karate, he earned black belts in a vast array of martial arts and went on to become one of the few certified 10th-degree black belts in US history. At the time of his death, Sanders still taught self-defense classes, both at his home and at Inman Health & Fitness. Despite his well-earned reputation as an elite fighter and tough guy, his students and clients loved him for his kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness. He taught them lessons in life as well as karate. And for many, he was the closest thing to a father that they ever had. He will be sorely missed by everyone blessed to know him.
Due to the COVID pandemic, there will not be a formal service. Mike will be interred at Graceland West Cemetery in Greenville, SC on Friday at 3:00 PM. Anyone wishing to visit the gravesite is welcome, but there will not be a formal service. We will have a celebration of life service at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Graceland Cemetery, 4814 Whitehorse Rd, Greenville, SC 29611 toward the purchase of a monument.
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