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Published: Monday, 1/9/2006

Eastwood teacher, mother of 4 earned college degree at night

PEMBERVILLE - Madonna M. Hiser, 98, a teacher who earned her college degree at night while raising four children after her husband died, passed away Saturday at the Otterbein-Portage Valley Retirement Village in Pemberville.

She had suffered a stroke five years ago, which prompted her to move into the home. She had lived alone and cooked for herself until she was 93. Her sister, VonDale Amos, lived to be 101.

Mrs. Hiser, who attended Bowling Green State University to earn her bachelor's degree, took two of her university classes with her then-college-age son, Paul. Both were studying elementary education, and they took an art class together.

"It was kind of strange. The professor's name was Dr. Beck, and he thought it was an honor to have a mother and son in the same class. We were able to help each other," Mr. Hiser said. "One of our friends was on the school board. And he said to my mother, 'Go back and get your degree; it would mean so much pay for you.'‚óŹ"

Mrs. Hiser's daughter, Margaret Wilka, said her mother was often doing homework but also cooked and took care of the family. Mrs. Wilka was only 7 when her father, Louis, died. The couple had married in 1930.

"She lost her husband when he was 49. She was in her late 40s. It was a massive heart attack, and she had two children in the home," she said.

Mrs. Hiser started teaching at Webster Elementary in the Eastwood schools in 1955. She worked there for 17 years.

Mrs. Wilka said her mother taught until 1972, when she started her family. Mrs. Hiser would baby-sit her grandchildren. She was a member of First United Presbyterian Church of Pemberville.

Surviving are sons Vernon, Gerald, and Paul; daughter, Margaret Wilka; 13 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren, and a great-great-granddaughter.

Visitation will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Marsh Funeral Home, Pemberville. Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the church.

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