- Sanders Milens
A life well lived ended peacefully for Sanders H. Milens, who passed away on January 20 at his home in Burlington, Vt., with his wife by his side. Sandy is survived by his beloved wife of nearly 48 years, Muffie Milens; their daughter, Hillary Milens, and her wife, Lauren Baker, of Amherst, Mass.; and many dear relatives and friends. He was predeceased by his only brother, Harvey Milens, in 2012.
Sandy, a first-generation American, was born in 1938 in Kansas City, Mo., to Jewish parents who emigrated from Russia and Romania. He spent his early life in Kansas City, then attended Northwestern University, graduating in 1962, majoring in Russian humanities and literature. He first came to Vermont in 1963, living and working at Spring Lake Ranch, where he established what was to become a lifelong connection with “the ranch” and the people who lived and worked there. In 1965, he moved to New York City to attend technical school to study commercial photography. His photography career began with his work in the large catalog houses of New York, where he worked until 1968.
He returned to Vermont in 1968, living in Rutland before moving to Burlington in 1970. Here he took root and soon met and married the woman who would stay with him for the rest of his life, Muffie Brown. He was a wonderful husband to Muffie and a marvelous father to their daughter, Hillary, who was born in 1977.
For the next five decades, Sandy pursued his passion of photography and soon developed a reputation as one of the finest photographers that Vermont possessed. If you were lucky enough to have Sandy photograph your wedding, you treasured his records of that special day. He was sought after by architects for the beautiful black-and-white work he did. Perhaps his proudest moments are seen in his two seminal books celebrating Vermont’s historic architecture, which were published by the Preservation Trust of Vermont.
In 1987, shortly after he had given up smoking, he was diagnosed with emphysema. Despite his diagnosis, Sandy continued to live a very full and active life, proudly logging more than 25,000 miles of biking. Indeed, there are stories of Sandy cruising down the Burlington Bike Path with his oxygen canisters in his backpack!
Everyone who knew Sandy knew he was a cat man! Humorous anecdotes abound of Sandy and his cats. He arrived in Vermont with Pussy Galore and Sgt. Pepper, and there were many kitties that followed. He leaves Oscar, his constant companion and pal up until the end.
Sandy recently celebrated his 80th birthday, surrounded by many wonderful friends and family. Sandy loved his wife and daughter dearly and enjoyed the very many people that he met along the way of his life’s journey. He was a gentle soul who touched many. He was also possessed of a really outstanding sense of humor like no other (except what he passed along to Hillary!). There was no joke too corny for Sandy!
Sandy quietly but deeply cared for those whose lives were not easy. In addition to his longtime support of local community arts and music, he served on the board of Spring Lake Ranch for many years, as well as the board of Spectrum Youth & Family Services. Sandy was a longtime volunteer for the University of Vermont Medical Center (humbly logging more than 1,000 hours!) and Meals on Wheels, both activities continuing until just recently.
A celebration of Sandy’s life will take place in the spring. Donations in Sandy’s memory may be made to Spring Lake Ranch, Spectrum Youth & Family Services, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or a charity of your choice.