My mother, Elizabeth Sanders, who has died aged 70, was an accomplished illustrator and historian. She initiated projects to make the world better, brighter and more interesting.
At the age of 23, Lizzie trained as an illustrator with professional artists at the Artist Partners illustration agency. Over four decades, her work included the famous “wrap-around” Yorkshire Tea packs, children’s books and many Penguin book jackets. She was a founder member of the Association of Illustrators and developed community-building skills that became central to the next chapter of her life.
Born in Gosport, Hampshire, to Eric McKee, an officer in the Royal Navy, and Betty (nee Dean), who was Australian by birth, Lizzie spent her childhood following her father’s naval postings abroad until she was sent to Stoodley Knowle boarding school in Torquay, Devon, at the age of eight. Aged 16 she took a foundation course at Portsmouth College of Art before going on to gain a first-class honours diploma in graphic design at Maidstone College of Art in Kent.
In 1987 Lizzie moved to Littlebury, near Saffron Walden, with her second husband, Brian Sanders, an artist she had met at Artist Partners (her first marriage had ended in divorce). She immersed herself in the community and there followed a Millennium Album of Littlebury and its surrounding hamlets in which she documented more than 100 local families and institutions. This was the first of many local publications studying the parish with curiosity and depth. Littlebury, A Parish History was published in 2005, co-edited with Dr Gillian Williamson. At the age of 64 Lizzie gained an MA in history at King’s College London.
The hallmarks of Lizzie’s community projects were unusual scope, joy and creativity. They included a field walk that resulted in the discovery of important Roman and Iceni coins; the creation of a detailed scale model of local luminary Henry Winstanley’s lighthouse with village children, who then theatrically destroyed it; and the resurrection of the ancient tradition of “beating the bounds” so that villagers could learn the parish boundaries.
In 2016 Lizzie was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. She faced it with courage, making a sell-out film of Littlebury Parish from archival photography. She then presented the local library with 11 bound volumes of parish research and, in 2019, she co-organised a village festival. Her final publication, Audley End: Landscape Histories, was completed in 2020. She is testament to what can be done with both grit and warmth.
Lizzie is survived by Brian and me, by her daughter from her first marriage, Jojo, and her grandchildren, Saskia, Harry and Lachlan.