First Reliance Bank founder’s father leaves a legacy

Freddie Saunders, 86, of Florence, South Carolina, died peacefully on January 9, 2024, at the McLeod Health Hospice Care.

Freddie was born in Sumter, South Carolina, on May 24, 1937, to the late Carl Frasier Saunders, Sr., and Martha Gardner Saunders. He is survived by his brothers, Carl Frasier Saunders, Jr. and Jimmy Saunders, and his wife, Jane, both of Sumter, South Carolina.

He grew up in Sumter, South Carolina, and began a career with Suburban Propane Gas at the early age of 19, where he remained with the company in a management role until his retirement at the age of 62, working 43 years for the same company.

Believing retirement was the goal, he realized that having days without a sense of real purpose was not as enjoyable as he envisioned, so he launched an entirely new career. From age 63 until his passing at 86 (23 years), he helped his two sons build First Reliance Bank, a long-standing regional bank. Managing the company’s fixed assets across the Carolinas, he was an outstanding member of the First Reliance Team and a proud father.

He is survived by the mother of his children, Jane Humphries Lawton, and was later married to Rosanne Tolar Rivers Saunders of Florence, South Carolina, until his death. Moving several times with the gas company, he and Rosanne lived in Columbia, South Carolina, Statesville, North Carolina, and finally settled back in Florence, South Carolina.

He is survived by his sons, Rick Saunders and wife Tiffany, Paul Saunders and wife Kathy, all of Florence, South Carolina, and Mark Saunders, of Tucson, Arizona. Stepsons, Lee Rivers and wife Tere’, of Surfside Beach, South Carolina; Bryan Rivers and wife Beth, of Lexington, South Carolina; and David Rivers and wife Becky, of Tampa, Florida.

He leaves four grandchildren, Chris, Reagan, Reid, and Ryleigh Saunders; one great-grandchild, Chapman Saunders; nine step-grandchildren, Michael, Kara, William, Matthew, Daniel, Sophia, Olivia Rivers, Leighton Pohorilak and Kirsten Baxley; and two step-great-grandchildren, Ezra and Maezie Pohorilak.

During his lifetime, he served in the United States National Guard, the town council in Timmonsville, South Carolina, as a church deacon, and was always involved in community civic organizations. He was a long-standing member of the Florence Baptist Temple, where he set a great example by establishing a family culture rooted in our love for and pursuit of God.

Outside of his pets, his greatest passions were his family, particularly enjoying late afternoon barbeques or frequent rounds of golf with his sons and friends. He was a very strong man. Being forced into independence early on, he quickly learned the importance of character, integrity, courage, hard work, excellence in effort, and grit. He made it his life’s mission that his sons understood and exercised those principles, leaving a legacy that all his family will forever be proud of.

Funeral services will be held at the Florence Baptist Temple in Florence, South Carolina, on Saturday, January 13, 2024, at 11:00 AM. Visitation will follow the service that will be officiated by Pastor Bill Monroe and Associate Pastor Kent Kendall and services directed by Stoudenmire-Dowling Funeral Home of Florence.

In lieu of flowers and should friends desire, contributions in his memory can be made to the Freddie Saunders Family Scholarship Fund, which will issue higher education scholarships to South Carolina students who are financially needy and are pursuing a business/finance-related degree, or to the Florence Area Humane Society. Visit https://gofund.me/5686ff14, to contribute.


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