Oakley R. Sanborn, 96: His musical ability brought joy to others

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SCARBOROUGH — Oakley Roland Sanborn, 96, died peacefully Dec. 10 at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House, surrounded by his family.

He was born Feb. 25, 1918, in Cape Elizabeth to Alice May (Marriner) Sanborn and Arthur Lee Sanborn.

He graduated from Cape Elizabeth High School, and at the beginning of World War II worked as a welder in the South Portland shipyards, helping to build the famous Liberty Ships that became essential to the Allied war effort. After enlisting in the U.S. Navy, he traveled to China and the South Pacific aboard repair ships that serviced the U.S. fleet.

After the war, Sanborn married and settled in South Portland, working in and later owning Elmer N. Blackwell Surgical Appliances, in Portland. He belonged to the Woodfords Club, Hiram Lodge and the U.S. Power Squadron. He also was a member for 68 years of the First Congregational Church in South Portland, and was a member of the church’s Eskimo Club.

Sanborn had a passion for the piano and the popular music of the 1930s and 1940s. As a young boy, he studied classical piano but soon persuaded his mother to let him switch to what he called “ragtime and jazz.” During high school, he and his older brother, a saxophonist, would play in local bars to earn pocket money.

Later, work and family responsibilities left him little time for music. But when, in his mid-80s, he moved to an assisted living community, he returned to the keyboard and hosted regular sing-alongs for fellow residents. At age 96, he began taking guitar lessons. Always, his focus was on the pleasure his music brought to others.

He also enjoyed golf, dancing, bowling, church-sponsored bean suppers and, most of all, spending time with family.

He was predeceased by his first wife, Arline (Jorgensen) Sanborn, and his second wife, Edith (Waldron) Sanborn.

Sanborn is survived by his daughter, Beth, and son-in-law Tom Burrage, of Guilford, Connecticut; grandson Peter Burrage, granddaughter-in-law Joi Carter and great-granddaughters Seija and Annika Burrage, of Brookline, Massachusetts; stepdaughter, Susan Shelton, of Knoxville, Tennessee; step-granddaughters Lori Shelton, of New York City, and Amy Shelton, of Johnson City, Tennessee; niece, Annette Jordan, and husband Don, of Cape Elizabeth; and his very special friend, Alice Loesch, of Portland.

Sanborn’s family wishes to express special appreciation to the staff and residents of Seventy-Five State Street who, in his words, were “just like family” to him.

Visitation will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 20, followed by a funeral at 2 p.m., at Hobbs Funeral Home, 230 Cottage Road, South Portland.

Instead of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Seventy-Five State Street Annual Appeal, 75 State St., Portland, ME 04101.

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