By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
As originally published by Mega Doctor News in its newsprint edition January 2017.
Back in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, an influx of new residents came from the north of the United States to the Valley. Many of them came with an idea to start a new life by purchasing tracks of the plentiful land available in those days.
Even though more than one hundred years had passed since the establishment of Hidalgo County, the area was still lush with vegetation, citrus fruit, and yes, hot weather. Let’s not to forget the many areas full of cactus, mesquite, and miles of flat bushland.
Just recently, Mega Doctor News had the opportunity to talk to Michael J. Sander, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon in the Valley. When you hear the name Sander, it is immediately recognizable; his family came to this area in the late 40s to buy land and to start a new life. For them, Edcouch, Texas was to be the new beginning.
Dr. Sander’s grandparents, Wesley R. and Rosemary Sander moved here from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma after Wesley finished his service with the US Army Air Corps in 1947.
“They purchased land north of Weslaco, and opened a pharmacy first in Edcouch, then in Elsa,” Dr. Michael Sander told Mega Doctor News. He continued, “My grandmother, Rosy, her Dad, and two of her sisters bought land. They all came from Oklahoma.”
He pointed out that his Grandfather Wesley served as mayor of Edcouch for a time in the 1950’s. (Publisher is finding dates of his tenure) Wesley and his wife Rosy were the first members of the Sander family to arrive.
Wesley and Rosy immediately started a Pharmacy in Edcouch, and then the second store in Elsa. “The Elsa store had a popular fountain that served ice cream, cherry coke, grilled cheese, etc.… I used to go there and visit when I was a small boy. The store closed in the early 1980’s,” Dr. Sander stated. Wesley Sander died in 1975.
Dr. Sander’s parents live here. He said, “My dad is from Edcouch, and my mom is from Brownsville. Mike H. and Claudia Sander. They met at pharmacy school at UT Austin.”
Believe it or not, his parents are both pharmacists. “My dad has a store, Sander Pharmacy of Weslaco, which has been in business for just over forty years. My mom Claudia is the longtime Director of the Pharmacy Dept. at Knapp Medical Center, and has been a pharmacist there over forty years,” Dr. Sander stated.
The Sander family is well rooted in this community. They have grown to be professionals and pillars of South Texas. As a matter of fact, Dr. Sander’s maternal grandfather was Desiderio “Desi” Falcon Rios. Family and friends called him “Desi,” he was also a ‘mover and shaker’ of these communities. Desi moved to the Valley with his wife Ofelia “Nena” from Corpus Christi, Texas.
According to Dr. Sanders, Nena was an elementary school teacher in Brownsville, and Desi was an educator at Texas Southmost College (TSC) in Brownsville. Desi was one of a kind; he oversaw many Vocational programs for the college, and served as the Dean of Vocational Education. “My grandfather started programs in welding, auto mechanics, aquaculture, X-ray tech, and nursing.” He proudly stated, “The Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN) program at Knapp was one of the affiliated programs that he created.” He added that it was unfortunate that when TSC became UT- Brownsville, the focus on these programs ended.
“My Grandpa Desi was involved in politics, including serving on the City Commission of Brownsville and running for Cameron County Judge. He and Nena raised six kids, and they all graduated college.” Dr. Sander said that they scraped by financially, but managed to graduate a medical doctor, a doctor of Optometry, three pharmacists, and an architect.
“I remember riding with my Grandpa Desi and being worried because he never filled up his gas tank. We would drive around looking for the best gas price and then put in a few dollars. He and my grandma sacrificed a lot to help their kids in school. Financial aid back then was: get a job, pay your way, or quit.”
Is Desi still active? “Desi is not alive, both my grandfathers died of prostate cancer too young,” he stated.
Dr. Sander was born in Harlingen, during the time his mother, Claudia, worked as a pharmacist at Valley Baptist Medical Center for a year after moving back from college in Austin. He said, “I graduated from Weslaco High School in 1992.” He is married to Jennifer from Houston; they met at the dorms at the University of Texas in Austin.
Also, he said, “My wife, Jennifer and I have four children ages 13-7. My two oldest, Henry and George, are in Weslaco ISD Central Middle school.” He continues, “My daughter, Charlotte, and youngest son, William, are at St. Philip Neri Oratory Academy in Pharr.”
Doctor Sander has three siblings, all physicians. He said, “Patrick is an orthopedic surgeon working in McAllen. James is a pediatric urologist working in McAllen. My sister Jennifer is in training as an orthopedic surgeon at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, Louisiana.” MDN