A standing room-only crowd filled the Miller Dutra Coastside Chapel Funeral Home in Half Moon Bay on Saturday to say goodbye to Evan Saunders, a 38-year-old El Granada resident who on Jan. 20 following an 8-year bout with brain cancer.
Saunders' good friend Michael Lederman, Artistic Director at the , officiated at the downtown service attended by approximately 200 people for the well-respected man Lederman described as "the toughest and strongest person I've ever met in my 54 years."
A lighting designer and actor at the theater, Saunders was also known to take part in a variety of active pursuits including dance, rock climbing, surfing, diving and gaming.
True to Saunders' performing roots at the Half Moon Bay theater, he was memorialized by his family, friends and fellow artistic colleagues through a series of musical performances.
Nick Newman (who played the character Collins in , the last Coastal Rep musical that Evan designed and ran lights for) sang "I'll Cover You Reprise" from the production. Bill Barton accompanied Newman on keyboards.
Local actor Dominic Falletti sang "You Walk With Me," a duet from The Full Monty he sang with Saunders at the Coastal Rep's production. Colin Price, the music director for the production, accompanied Falletti on keyboards.
Wife Lisa Claybaugh, mother-in-law Carolyn Claybaugh, and remembrances from dozens of members of Saunders' family and community spoke to those assembled in the chapel.
ended the service by playing a moving rendition of "Amazing Grace" on the harmonica, which merged into a hand-clapping, foot-stomping version that then flowed into "When the Saints Go Marching In."
Guistino continued to play the song as the majority of the congregants marched along with him up Half Moon Bay's Main Street to the Coastal Repertory Theater. At the theater, Saunders' friends and family gathered over food, contributed pages for a memory book about Saunders for his 4-year-old son Aidan and shared memories until long after the sun set.
The program for the memorial service included a tribute poem to Saunders. An excerpt:
Struck by bad luck my brother
*#%&@$^ brain cancer. #^@*.
The wick burns low. Not much time left.
Know that you were and are loved.
Yeah, you could be an *^@#$^%
but don't let that make you feel special.
You're special because you breathed,
sired a son,
supported and were supported by a community.
Your passing will leave a hole in all our lives
Shaped by you.
Wishing for you.....peace
The following passage was printed on the back of the memorial service program:
Evan David Bjorn Saunders was born May 4, 1973 in Bergen, Norway. He passed away Friday, January 20th after an 8-year struggle with brain cancer. He was a 1995 graduate of Rutgers University. A former dancer with Acrodanse Theater, Maxine Moerman, and Lizz Roman and Dancers, in recent years Evan worked as an actor, lighting designer and general technician with the Coastal Repertory Theatre of Half Moon Bay. He was reluctantly drafted into a bit part, and went on to appear in several more performances, often as a lead.
Evan was an actor, dancer, lighting designer, technician extraordinaire, rock climber, surfer, diver, gamer, husband, son, brother, father, and friend. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.
The family is establishing two memorial scholarship funds at the Coastal Repertory Theatre. One in Evan's name for a promising graduating senior who has shown technical aptitude and another to help his son Aidan with his education. A memorial concert at his request that will be "way better than a talent show" will be announced in the days ahead.
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