Dr. Walter Cooper Sandusky, Jr.
Walter Cooper Sandusky, Jr. was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on December 20, 1923, and was suddenly called to his heavenly home early Thursday morning, November 3, 2016.
Walter Cooper was well-known to have been a lively and engaging little boy, full of the joy of life and also full of mischief. From these early days he had a great love of humanity and a powerful appreciation for the natural world.
He spent many happy hours of his childhood and youth outside in the beauty of nature, often riding his dearly-loved horse, playing with his goat and cart, or hunting with his father, Walter, who was a long-time Holly Springs dentist. Walter Cooper always had many friends and an eye to adventure. He played some funny tricks in school, climbed water towers, rode his horse fast across the fields in Marshall County, and otherwise enjoyed life to the fullest.
His love of the natural world and exuberance for life in general was reflected in the hobbies he enjoyed. He was an Eagle Scout. He played golf, tennis and racquetball and was skilled at water-skiing and riflery. He loved to sing, and could play many musical instruments. In later life, he was a gifted painter, sculptor, poet, and woodworker. His handmade duck calls were highly prized by family members and hunting buddies.
After graduating from Holly Springs High School, he entered the University of Mississippi in 1940 and went on to excel in dental school at the University of Tennessee. During World War II, he served the United States of America as a Captain in the Air Force then returned home to practice dentistry with his father in Holly Springs. In 1949 he married the love of his life, Lois Philpot, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Van B. Philpot, and mother of his seven children. He made the decision to specialize in orthodontics, graduating in 1951, and opened an orthodontic practice in Memphis, Tenn.
A favored student of Dr. Charles H. Tweed (who learned orthodontics from Dr. Edward Angle, widely considered the “father of American orthodontics” and founder of the first school of orthodontics) Walter Cooper Sandusky came into his own as an orthodontist, where his talents as a creative artist and engineer came into play. He invented tools and appliances and put the ones already invented to better use. His work was exemplary and highly prized. He was named a Fellow in the American Board of Orthodontists because of his leadership, contributions to the profession, and contributions to the society. Further, his talents as a person who loves people manifested as well. He once said, “I wanted to spend my days with kids. This has made me happy.” He practiced orthodontics actively until he was 88 years old.
Perhaps the most important part of Dr. Sandusky’s professional career was his teaching. Because of his work with student orthodontists at the University of Tennessee as Professor of Orthodontics during his sixty-one years of teaching, there are countless people who have been touched by his professionalism. He lectured at conferences throughout the Unites States and internationally. About his profession he once said, addressing young dentists, “Continue to train yourself to carry out the responsibilities of treating your patients, always striving for excellence in all procedures. Do not set getting rich as a goal. If we treat all patients as we should, the economics will take care of itself.” In 2014 Dr. Sandusky received the Joseph and Louise Ada Jarabak Award for excellence in teaching. It is given annually by the American Association of Orthodontist’s Foundation to a person who has made significant contributions to orthodontic education. And because of his dedication, the University of Tennessee recently designated the Walter C. Sandusky Conference Room in the renovated School of Dentistry in his honor. One of Dr. Sandusky’s landscape paintings hangs on the Legacy Wall of that room.
Service to humanity was a consistent part of Dr. Sandusky’s life, because of his love for people. He was a past president of the East Memphis Rotary Club, overseeing during his tenure the support of a downtrodden school in Memphis and volunteering himself to serve at that school. He received the Rotary Humanitarian Award, and as president of the Memphis Dental Society, he spearheaded efforts to support children’s dental health.
Most important to him was his Christian faith. He joined the First Baptist Church in Holly Springs as a child of seven and as an adult moved his membership to Memphis. Dr. Sandusky’s service to First Baptist Church of Memphis was constant and commendable, throughout every week of his adult life. He was Superintendent of Sunday School, Chairman of Deacons, and Chairman of Finance. He taught Sunday School through Sunday, October 30, 2016, and sang baritone in the Chancel Choir for 67 years.
He was the national president of the Baptist Medical/Dental Fellowship, giving much energy to helping people in need, not only in organizing missions for others but also in giving his own time and talent to ease the pain and help the lives of those who suffer.
Dr. Sandusky’s mission trips included twenty-two tours to Nicaragua, India, Romania, Ukraine, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and his beloved Uganda. Often taking his wife Lois or one of his children or grandchildren along to assist, he labored from daylight until dark at these missions, practicing basic dentistry, and sharing his faith. His last service mission was 4 and a half years ago, and at 92 he returned to Uganda for the dedication of the Walter Cooper Sandusky Dental Centre at Karuna, Uganda, named in honor of his service.
He felt compelled to do what he could to bring the story of Jesus’ example to everyone, for he took seriously Christ’s Great Commission that Christians go to all lands taking the beautiful truth of salvation to people who might otherwise never get to hear it. It goes without saying that he always sprinkled in a little bit of mischief and fun here and there along the way, to entertain the folks.
He leaves his beloved wife of sixty-seven years, Lois Philpot Sandusky, seven children—Lois, Libba, Dale, Cooper, Grace, Marie, and John and their spouses, twenty-four grandchildren, and twenty-one great grandchildren, and his sister Doris Sandusky Sigman Cochran of Holly Springs. He was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Walter Cooper Sandusky, Sr. of Holly Springs and his oldest sister, Marie Evelyn Sandusky.
A memorial service celebrating the life and homecoming of Dr. Walter Cooper Sandusky, Jr. was held on November 5 at The First Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn., with a private interment preceding the service at Memorial Park Cemetery. The family requests that any memorials be sent to First Baptist Church, 200 E. Parkway, Memphis, Tenn. 38112 or Restoration Gateway Mission in Uganda, 4300 W. Waco Dr. B2-314, Waco, Texas 76710.
“For they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint,” Isaiah 40:31.