Obituary: Hair salon owner Wayne Saunders, 74, was avid blood donor, volunteer

Wayne Saunders, a businessman who invested in friendships as a longtime salon owner, real estate agent and volunteer, died Dec. 11 of pneumonia, his family said. He was 74.

Not someone “who just let life happen to him,” Mr. Saunders was an outgoing, entrepreneurial man who pursued opportunities and relationships with people, his daughter Belinda Thornburg said. He worked as a hairstylist for 35 years before starting a second career selling homes. He volunteered as a museum docent and was a lay leader in his church. He taught driving courses to seniors, and he recently was honored as a top blood donor.

“His entire professional career was all based on people,” his daughter said. “He was a really genuine person who loved being a part of people’s lives. His clients became his friends.”

Mr. Saunders built a large following as the owner and operator of Kaleidoscope Hair Styling salons in Sacramento and Carmichael. Clients invited him to important family events, from weddings to funerals. He taught cosmetology classes, made many friends at professional hair shows and was a past president of the Sacramento Cosmetology Association.

He began selling homes for about 10 years in the late 1990s for Keller Williams and Coldwell Banker. An active member of the Sacramento Association of Realtors, he served on committees and was a driving force in the group’s CanTree food donation program.

Witty and engaging, Mr. Saunders found ways to share his interests with others as a volunteer. A fan of classic cars who fondly recalled his 1958 MG, he spent five years as a docent at the California Auto Museum. He was a devout Christian who served as an elder and deacon at Westminster Presbyterian Church and Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church.

He was overseeing a church blood drive when he began donating blood to BloodSource Inc. in 1989. Within several years he was giving plasma once a month, and in 2009 he began donating weekly. After increasing his visits to twice a week this year, he asked if he also could volunteer serving refreshments to other donors. In May, he was honored by BloodSource for giving more than 74 gallons of blood products over 592 visits.

“He had a great gift of gab, and he loved talking to all the donors and volunteers,” said Lorraine Schlak at BloodSource in Fair Oaks. “He was someone who had a lot of life experiences and was very community minded, and he felt like it was his turn to give back and help others because he had been so successful.”

Mr. Saunders enjoyed reminiscing at regular lunches with members of the East Sacramento Old Guys and Gals Club, a group of Sacramento High School graduates from the 1950s. He also taught driver-safety courses for AARP.

The younger of two sons raised by a single mother, Carl Wayne Saunders was born May 19, 1939, in Oakland and moved to Sacramento as a boy. He graduated from Sacramento High School in 1957 and enlisted with his brother for two years in the Army.

“My uncle signed up and then my dad went and signed up to get ahead of the draft,” Thornburg said. “As it turned out, my uncle went to Hawaii, and my dad was stationed in Georgia. They always laughed about that.”

Mr. Saunders attended Sacramento City College and California State University, Sacramento. A Fair Oaks resident, he was married for 46 years to his wife, Barbara, and had three children.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a son, Jon; two daughters, Belinda Thornburg and Allison; a brother, Ron; and two granddaughters.

A memorial is planned for 11 a.m. Jan. 3 at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church, 11427 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the missions department at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church or to BloodSource Inc., www.bloodsource.org.