By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff
Wayne Landers, our beloved coworker and co-owner, passed away on November 12th, 2017 after battling cancer for over a year. Other Avenues workers and the co-op community will greatly miss him. We want to express our gratitude for his valued contribution to the coop movement in general (and Other Avenues specifically) in many of our business and community related endeavors.
I worked with Wayne Landers at Other Avenues for over 14 years where we shared many business-related projects and attended co-op conferences to help build the coop network. During these years, I appreciated Wayne’s tireless energy, generosity, humor, and cooperative spirit. He was a born co-operator.
Wayne Landers was born on July 23, 1966 in Fremont and was the youngest child of John and Joanne Landers. He is survived by his three siblings, Paula, Fred and Russell Landers. Wayne exceled academically in high school and later graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 1989 with a double major in Physics and History. After graduation, Wayne worked as IT manager for several years and was self -employed as a software developer and consultant in Silicon Valley. This ability to communicate with computers came in handy when he took a job at Other Avenues Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco in the 90s when, at the time, none of us were computer literate. In fact, we used to call Wayne “the brother from another planet” – he could talk to computers and they would listen to him!
I remember asking Wayne about the reasons for his move from a more financially rewarding career to a retail health food cooperative. He explained that, first of all, he was searching for a workplace that would be democratic and supportive–like the close-knit family in which he was raised. Secondly, he was not happy in the extremely competitive environment of Silicon Valley. Besides being a highly intellectual individual, Wayne was on a spiritual quest for mutually empowering, satisfactory work, and his career in tech simply did not provide that.
In addition to helping us with computer education, Wayne also improved many communication tools to advance co-op’s governance. While he was CFO of our co-op, Wayne explained the value of business planning, which later became useful as we pursued community loans to purchase Other Avenues’ building in 2008, and later when he engineered a much-needed refinancing that has ensured Other Avenues’ enduring presence in the Outer Sunset community. While working full time at OA, Wayne attended graduate school and got an MBA in business from Dominican University in 2010. He applied these business skills when he helped OA obtain a business loan from our bank. I vividly recall the time when some of us went with Wayne to the Title Company to sign loads of papers. The company was in a tall building downtown, and while the rest of us were admiring the great view from the top floor, Wayne was scrutinizing minor, yet extremely important details in the million pages we had to sign!
In addition to focusing on business related topics, Wayne was deeply involved in improving the human side of our coop. We are a small worker-own co-op where all of us are required to do everything, including cashiering, managing departments, and facilitating Board meetings. Wayne often facilitated our Board meetings with such great care that he became my mentor in this field. Wayne would listen to every side of an issue carefully—especially when the subject was polarized— digest the information, and paraphrase to summarize everyone’s concerns. He was able to do this not only because of his excellent command of communication tools, but also because of his ability to understand and empathize with every side of the coin.
Lastly, Wayne was the most positive person I have met in many years of my co-op work. Whether facing a difficult business decision or while fighting his year-long cancer battle, Wayne never gave up. My husband Rick and I would go to visit Wayne once a month while he was on a sick leave from the co-op. He would show us around the Fremont area and partake in various hikes, despite his flagging physical ability. Wayne and his family shared many backpacking and camping trips as they adventured all over California and the West Coast. He even inspired his family to plan a trip to Yosemite to celebrate his last birthday this July. They were a bit ambivalent and concerned, especially about Wayne’s plans to climb Unicorn Peak which they had done 5 years previous. The hike was not easy, but Wayne accomplished it with his brothers. Although exhausted, Wayne was so pleased to see the place again (see the photo of Wayne with the Peak in the background in Wayne’s Life Celebration Event).
While questioning many inconsistencies in life and in business, Wayne never lost positivity and hope. He always tried to keep a balance between hoping for a better future while facing and living the present moment. Throughout his life, Wayne worked hard on long-term projects for community based economy, at Other Avenues as well as in his local Fremont community. As his brother Russell said, “All the while he seemed to have the ability to just be – here – now-together- with you and me- gently – exchanging ideas -laughing – creating – with love and respect!”
Please join us in a Celebration of Wayne: Sat., Nov. 25, 1:30 pm, Sharing at 2, potluck at 3, Cole Hall, behind United Methodist Church 2950 Washington Blvd. Fremont, CA 94539.
Donations in Wayne’s memory are welcome and may be made by check to Cooperation Richmond, 323 Brookside Dr., Richmond, CA 94801. Wayne contributed significantly to the original business plan for Cooperation Richmond which embodies his commitment to the cooperative business movement. All donations are tax deductible.