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Salisbury resident gives to Christmas Happiness in memory of husband, son

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Betty and Donald Sunding had been together since their 20s, when they met at South Dakota State College. The two raised a family and have lived in five different states.

This week, Betty is remembering her late husband, whom everyone called Gene, and their son, Timothy, with a donation to the Christmas Happiness Fund.

After Gene died in 2005, Betty began giving to the Christmas Happiness Fund, which provides gift cards for families at Christmas.

The fund was established nearly 70 years ago when a Salisbury Post editor learned there were several children who wouldn’t receive much, if anything, at Christmas. He asked local residents to dig into their wallets and purses to help families give to their children.

Betty and Gene were married almost 49 years.

“We were just kids when we met,” she said.

He died in February 2005, and their anniversary was June 30. The two were still in college when they got married, Betty recalled. He graduated and 34 years later she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

His job took the family from Omaha, Nebraska, working for the VA Medical Center there, to the Chicago area, to Birmingham, Alabama, and finally to Salisbury in 1972. Alabama was the family’s first taste of the South, Betty said.

She and Gene both worked at the Hefner VA Medical Center until they retired. The Sundings had three sons and a daughter, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, with the last one born Oct. 29.

Their son Timothy was killed in a car accident in 1981. He wasn’t quite 21 years old and had joined the Navy three years before while still in high school. His ship was stationed in dry dock in Mobile, Alabama.

He was on his way home one night and ran off the road. Betty said they believe he was in an unfamiliar area and didn’t see a curve until it was too late. Timothy is buried at the historic national cemetery.

“He was great. He was never in any trouble,” Betty said of her son.

Betty said she doesn’t recall why she decided to contribute to the Christmas Happiness Fund. She has continued giving each year in memory of her son and husband.

“It seemed like a good one to do,” she said.

The program is sponsored by the Salisbury Post, which collects contributions. The Salvation Army of Rowan County distributes gift cards. Each day, readers send donations to the Post, often with a heartfelt tribute to a loved one, and the Post lists the names and amounts in the paper.

Contributions may be delivered to the Salisbury Post, 131 W. Innes St., between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays or mailed to Salisbury Post Christmas Happiness Fund, P.O. Box 4639, Salisbury, NC 28145-4639.

Today’s contributions are:

In loving memory of Marvin Feezor by Providence United Methodist Church, $300.
In lieu of Christmas cards to family and friends by Rick and Carol Leonard, $100.
The Discovery Sunday School Class at First Presyterian Church, $100.
In memory of Timothy J. Sunding and Donald E. Sunding by Betty Sunding, $200.
Total: $700
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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