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Sanford Naiditch always wore his World War II veteran hat — except for when he saw another soldier.

Then, he would calmly remove his cap, approach the GI and say, "Thank you for your service." Taking his hat off was important to Sanford, who worked Army field artillery in Japan and the Philippines, because he wanted to offer his gratitude without making the receiver feel obligated to thank him in return.

Years ago, when asked how he wanted to be remembered, Sanford answered: "Patriotism and being a good family man."

Indeed, no two traits better encapsulate the 97 years Sanford lived before his death from COVID-19 on Aug. 26 in Des Moines.

Born in 1923 in Chicago, Sanford spent most of his life in Minneapolis, where he and his wife, Sylvia, raised their two children, Ira and Linda.

Sanford and Sylvia filled Ira and Linda's childhoods with everything from horseback riding to skiing to rollerblading. So long as they were spending time together as a family, the activity didn't matter. During the long Minnesota winters, the Naiditches would flood their backyard and create an ice rink for family and friends.

Even as Sanford worked long hours throughout his career — in women's dress manufacturing, stock brokerage and market-making — he made sure to come home for dinner before heading back out to the office.

"Other than my wife, he was my best friend," said his son, Ira.

One way Sanford expressed his love was miles traveled. When Linda was serving in the Peace Corps in the Congo, Sanford visited her in central Africa. When one of his grandsons was having Grandparents Day at school, Sanford postponed his heart surgery and hopped on a plane. When Sanford and Sylvia were still well enough to travel, they took their three oldest grandchildren to Tanzania, Italy and New Zealand.

And almost two years ago, when Ira and his wife, Sue, sold “everything” to move to Iowa to care for their grandson who had a complex medical condition, Sanford pulled up stakes, too.

"He always wanted to be part of our life, so wherever I went or Ira went, he visited," Linda said.

While Sanford's time in Iowa was short, he quickly made the Hawkeye state his home. He lived in the same Ankeny building as Ira and Sue, having dinner with them a couple of times a week.

He attended the State Fair and Iowa Cubs games and participated in the caucuses. He looked forward to watching the Hawkeyes play the Ohio State Buckeyes, where the 1946 graduate was a cheerleader during his college years. A proud alumnus, Sanford was known to break out the OSU fight song whenever football came up in conversation.

He “saw life as an adventure,” his family wrote in his obituary.

Sanford joined Ira's bowling team at 95 years young and was skiing, both water and snow, well into his 80s. Last year, he played cornhole with his 92-year-old sister, Dorothy, at his great-granddaughter's bat mitzvah.

Just weeks before he died, Sanford was on the golf course giving his daughter-in-law lessons on her backswing — even though "he was always a terrible golfer," Ira laughed.

After a stroke slowed him down in his later years, Sanford held onto his quick wit and excitement for life, Ira said. He was a Life Master in duplicate bridge, loved a good game of backgammon and enjoyed watching TV with his great-grandson.

And if nothing else, he was content to sit on the couch and watch the geese outside his apartment.

As Sanford himself would tell his VA nurses, he was "a healthy old fart!", Ira recalled in an email.

Sanford often talked about what he wanted for his 100th birthday party. He said he'd love to invite dozens of people to celebrate — "everyone he met, including acquaintances, friends of friends and complete strangers," Linda said. He'd sit in a gazebo, greeting all and sipping his favorite whiskey. 

A proud Jewish man, he enjoyed teaching guests about his religion over dinner at his family's Passover table. He loved to eat and even as he lost his appetite in his last days, the homemade chicken soup and Wendy’s burgers and Frostys his family brought gave him some comfort.

He raised money for Planned Parenthood and Help-a-Heart, a nonprofit that benefits children with congenital heart defects. And he always made sure friends and family knew the Naiditch home was a place for people to stay when they needed help getting back on their feet.

There are a lot of ways to remember Sanford Naiditch. But he'd be happy if you looked back on him simply: a patriot and a good family man.

Iowa Mourns is a series of remembrances about Iowans who lost their lives to COVID-19 during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. If you've lost a loved one to COVID-19 in Iowa, let us know by filling out this form or emailing Iowa Columnist Courtney Crowder at ccrowder@dmreg.com.

Isabella Rosario is a public safety reporter for the Ames Tribune. She can be reached by email at irosario@gannett.com or on Twitter at @irosarioc. 

Iowans lost to COVID-19

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A Cubs fan, the "flower lady," husbands, wives, and more are part of the more than 1,400 Iowans lost COVID-19 as of early October 2020. Des Moines Register

The following are deaths from COVID-19 added in the past week to our list of more than 200 Iowans who have died from the disease, found at DesMoinesRegister.com/IowaMourns.

Darla Arends, 58, Charles City. A special-education instructor at Charles City High School. 

Tom Barnabo, 57, Des Moines. Original member of the Grand View University football program's coaching staff. 

Marilyn Ann Brunsvold, 77, Mason City. Never far from a word search puzzle book.

Bruce Byerly, 70, Marion. A toy designer who lived his dream by working for Mattel.

George Christoffersen, 68, Missouri Valley. Loved Dunkin' Donuts hazelnut iced coffee paired with a chocolate cake donut with chocolate frosting. 

Larry Dewell, 83, Clarence. A 50-year member of the Eastern Star and the Masonic Lodge.

Henry Earl Drake, 47, Des Moines. A diehard Oakland Raiders fan. 

Jason Englert, 38, Belmond. Taught in the Belmond-Klemme Talented and Gifted program.

Robert Harle, 77, Kanawha. A farmer in Norway Township for more than 50 years. 

Tom Henry, 88, Waterloo. A machinist, gauge inspector and gauge repairman at John Deere.

Carroll Johnson, 81, Mason City. A NASCAR fan who always cheered on her favorite drivers, Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Jerry Robert Kilpatrick, 84, Davenport. Took two mission trips to Honduras, where he worked to build a hospital.

LaVirta Lee, 91, Mapleton. Cherished the Eastside Homemakers Club and the Soldier Lutheran Ladies Aid group.

Jim Luensman, 43, Atkins. Worked as a paramedic in Monticello, North Benton and Atkins.

Jeffrey Duane Mahrt, 64, Spencer. A founding member and head coach of the Spencer Cardinals baseball team.

Charline Lorraine McDermott, 86, Toddville. A magician at getting babies to sleep. 

Sang Hae McDowell, 92, Davenport. Grew up under Japanese occupation of Korea.

Ricky Murga, 53, Quad Cities. Enjoyed Mexican art and culture as much as vintage automobiles. 

Oscar P. “Swede” Ostrom, Jr., 93, Des Moines. Delighted in giving tours of his Minnesota boyhood school, which later became a museum.

Ronald Roberts, 81, Chariton. A sociology professor at the University of Northern Iowa for three decades. 

Harold Spurgeon, 100, Ottumwa. A triplet, joined the Navy Seabees and served in the Philippines during WWII.

Marilyn Jean Wallen, 86, Sioux City. Operated the Wallen Stables and Riding School for more than 55 years.

John Wright, 61, Des Moines. Drove buses for Southeast Polk Community School District for 13 years.

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