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Sanford Jones made his transition on Tuesday, June 22nd at his home in Savannah, Georgia at the age of 83. He will be lovingly remembered by his family, friends, and even those who only shared a moment with him for his positive demeanor, sense of humor, charisma, handwritten notes, spontaneity, sincere nature, and ability to listen without judgement. He also really enjoyed using his hands and other senses doing things outdoors, especially in his garden, which was known as one of the most beautiful in Ardsley Park.

Sanford was born in Radford, Virginia to Evelyn and Edmund Jones. He always reminisced about his happy childhood and told stories about riding his bike and exploring the riverbanks with friends.

Sanford completed his undergraduate work in music and history at Westminster Choir College, Rutgers University and Roanoke College. A piano and piano pedagogy student of Frances Clark and a member of Westminster Choir under John Finley Williamson, he taught at Westminster Choir College and The New School for Music Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Sanford and wife Judy co-founded Youth Opera International, Inc. His fourteen children’s operas, based on mythology and folktales, have been performed globally over 500 times.

Sanford was well-known as a Montessori educator and lecturer. His training even included sessions in Bergamo, Italy with Mario Montessori, son of Dr. Maria Montessori. He made significant contributions to the Montessori movement, including the founding and directing of four schools on the East Coast. He was the founding president of the North American Montessori Teachers’ Association and was a former Executive Director of Association Montessori Internationale-USA. In 2012, he was presented with a “Wisdom of the Elders” award from the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education in recognition of a lifetime of dedicated service to Montessori education. He created a line of songbooks, DVDs and educational materials used in Montessori classrooms internationally.

In Savannah, where he lived for 25 years, Sanford conducted Montessori teacher training and performed his children’s operas at Charles Ellis Montessori Academy for many years, and also staged his operas at Bloomingdale Elementary School and was a founding consultant at Coastal Empire Montessori School.

Throughout his life, Sanford loved playing classical piano. With over seventy-five years of performing, he continued to challenge himself to learn new works by a wide array of composers. He was a long-time member of a pianists’ group at The Landings. He also enjoyed singing and belonged to E. Cantori and the Local Vocals. He used his musical talents to benefit organizations including Asbury Church, Unity of Savannah, the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island, and numerous others. Beyond his passion for music and his work, he enjoyed traveling to visit friends and faraway places, contemplating life with a good cup of coffee, and a large bowl of ice cream and cookies to end each day.

Sanford is survived by his wife, Judy Jones; sister and husband, Elizabeth and Gary Bronson; daughter and husband Carrie and Butch Hirsch; son and wife David Jones and Jane Phelan Jones; son Christopher Braden; son Charles Jones; daughter and husband Mary and Kevin Reilley; son and wife Stephen and Tara Austin; and son and wife Michael and Laurie Austin; grandson and wife Julian Jones Delacruz and Laurel Patterson; grandchildren George Hirsch, Jr., Savanna Phelan Jones, Cameron Jones, Parker Jones, Spencer Jones, Shannon Reilley, John Reilley, Ryan Reilley, Kristen Reilley, Kevin Austin, Joe Austin, Erin Austin, Emily Austin, Lucy Austin, Grace Austin, and Mark Austin; great-grandchildren Ava Wibberly, Reid Wibberly, and Marlon Delacruz; and beloved dog Bogey.

A Celebration of Life service will be held for Sanford Jones on Saturday, August 7th at 3:00 pm at Asbury Memorial Church at 1008 E. Henry Street.

In lieu of flowers, any donations may be made to Asbury Memorial Church.

Online Condolences

  1. Kathleen Mahoney Taylor says:

    Ms. Judy-

    My heart is broken for you. Sanford was just the best Montessori teacher and the two of you were magical with the Ellis productions.

    I learned so much from you both.
    My deepest sympathies on the passing of Sanford.

    Kathleen Mahoney Taylor

  2. Michael S Cobb says:

    Dear Judy, We were both so sad to hear tonight of Sanfords passing. What a wonderful man he was and leaves such a lot of great memories for us over such a long time. We were hoping to see you both in the coming year as Marylou is planning to be in North Carolina in the fall and we were thinking of going to the Savanna area for a visit and talked about seeing you again. Marylou knew Sanford from the beginning of her career and always has held you both in high regard. We are thinking of you Judy at this time and hope that you find the strength to carry on in this difficult moment. Love from us both. Michael and Marylou Cobb

  3. Ardis H Wood says:

    Sanford was a most talented, kind, and delightful gentleman. His loss is not only to his family but his community. My sincere condolences to Judy and his family. Ardis Wood

  4. Kathleen Mahoney Taylor says:

    Dear Ms. Judy-

    My heart is broken for you. Sanford was such the perfect trainer of Montessori educators. I loved listening to his stories and watching the two of you get our children ready for Opera night at Ellis.

    He was an inspiration.
    You are in my thoughts.
    Kathleen Mahoney Taylor

  5. Pat & Wendy Ciccodicola says:

    Utterly heartbroken for Judy and Family – and all of us – over the sudden passing of Sanford. He blessed us all in so many ways. Sanford’s sharing of his many, superb, musical talents brought joy to our souls. His special greetings filled with warmth and love have always been so appreciated. Sanford’s stories and wit brought smiles to our faces and laughter to our hearts. He will be sorely and greatly missed; however, always remembered.

  6. Lawrence Carson says:

    So sorry to see this. You both made Charles Ellis’s opera performance experience come alive for many. These skills and discipline learned made my children into wonderful self confident successful adults.
    Prayers in celebration of fabulous Sanford.

  7. Hannah McCarthy says:

    I knew Sanford as a member of the SCI vocal group when it was first formed. I was not only impressed by his musical talent, but also by his sly wit and his ability to make us musically-challenged types feel right at ease. He will be sorely missed and long remembered by everyone who knew him. My sincerest condolences to his family.

  8. Patrice and Reg Britz says:

    Dear Judy and Family,
    We are so sad to hear this untimely news. We will always remember the many years we personally benefitted from Sanford’s generosity, openness, kindness; his willingness to share his knowledge, history, anecdotes, incredible Montessori expertise, contacts, and his many workshops. Throughout his life, he embodied a consistent dignity and was a larger-than-life role model who inspired better Montessori practice wherever he went. His written advice to parents and teachers around reading was exceptional. For so many years, the national and international Montessori community has greatly benefited from his rich life’s work. His legacy, both as a creative artist, impresario, and Montessori legend, will continue to be larger and more impactful than ever imagined. There was no one like him and we will all morn his loss for a long time to come. Our sincerest condolences.

  9. Grace Althen Neal says:

    My deepest condolences Judy. Sanford made such an impact on my life in so many ways, from singing in his operas to owning my Montessori childcare and Pre K school. He was a wonderful man and a gentle soul. He will be missed.
    With sympathy
    Grace Althen Neal

  10. Bobbe B Spink says:

    So sorry to hear about Sanford’s passing. He was such a supporter of the children, especially music and children. His music workshop is the reason music played such a central role in my school and why we did musical plays every year at every level K-8th. I was so fortunate to learn from Sanford many times in many places! His life’s work in Montessori was truly a gift to the entire Montessori community!

  11. Stephanie Babcock-Wright, on behalf of CEMCS says:

    Reflecting on and deeply appreciating Mr. Sanford’s gifts to Montessori, music and children, especially as they have touched Coastal Empire Montessori and created a lasting legacy for countless Savannah schoolchildren. Our whole community sends up thanks and thoughts to you and your family today and in the difficult days to come. Go with grace and peace.

  12. Jackie Madden says:

    To his family,
    I thank you for the time I shared with him and Judy. My times in Montessori training and working with the two on operas while teaching at Charles Ellis will forever be remembered. It was a true blessing to experience all that Sanford had to share. My thoughts and prayers are with each of you during this time.

  13. ellen and Robert Champlin says:

    Dear Judy and family – our deepest condolences to you; who both helped welcome us into the Unity Church family when we first moved here to Savannah 5 1/2 years ago. Will miss how Sanford put on such beautiful concerts; especially at Christmas with the sing alongs at your Christmas parties! Thank you for sharing your beautiful souls with us!

  14. Joan Hester Byrd says:

    Sanford was so very special to me and my family, a ‘prince of a guy’ in every way – a true delight. His style, his approach to life, his music thrilled and blessed our souls – thank you, Sanford for ‘passing our way’.

  15. Judy Jones says:

    Dear Friends,
    Thank you for all your kind words celebrating my husband‘s life. I’m sure the angels in heaven are playing his beautiful music. We know that he was greatly loved and will be missed here on earth. He so loved his family and his time here on earth. He loved practicing the piano, planning recitals, meeting with friends for lunch, cafe latte, playing with his dog, Bogey, working in his garden and being in his home. All of which he experienced his final day on earth. One of his beautiful pieces was “Ode to the Earth” God bless my husband! I love you, Judi

  16. Judy Jones says:

    Dear Friends,
    Thank you for all your kind words celebrating my husband‘s life. I’m sure the angels in heaven are playing his beautiful music. We know that he was greatly loved and will be missed here on earth. He so loved his family and his time here on earth. He loved practicing the piano, planning recitals, meeting with friends for lunch, cafe latte, playing with his dog,Bogey,working in his garden and being in his home.All of which he experienced his final day on earth.One of his beautiful pieces was “Ode to the Earth” God bless my husband! I love you, Judy

  17. Catharine Calder says:

    When I shared the news of Sanford’s passing with my school community–near and far, current and past–many people replied, and I share some of those replies now.

    From Anna: What a legacy— I just found myself singing the pomegranate song from Persephone to Theodore some 35 years after we did that musical at MMS.

    From Sue: This made me sad to read today. The opera might have been for the kids, but the opera and Sanford totally unloosed my creativity which changed the way I have lived from that moment on. Sanford’s operas forced me to think outside of my narrow little box. Me creating costumes w/o a pattern? Without the operas and Sanford, that would have never happened. I think my record was 120 costumes in two weeks . . . and that has made all the difference in my life. Forever grateful to Sanford Jones, as well as all that was and is Meadow Montessori. Rest in Sweet Peace, Sanford.

    From Betsy and many more just like this: I remember him fondly from our opera work.

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