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Published: Tuesday, 5/2/2006

Teacher began nursery school

Sarah A. Coley, 67, a longtime Toledo Public Schools kindergarten teacher who was one of the founders of the All Saints Nursery School, died yesterday in St. Luke's Hospital from complications of pulmonary fibrosis.

Mrs. Coley taught at Lincoln and Whittier elementary schools for 14 years before retiring in 2000.

She and two of her friends opened and operated the nursery school, 5445 Heatherdowns Blvd., for eight years until 1983.

"Her calling was to always be with children," her husband, Joe, said. "She got together with two other women who both had young children when our youngest son was 3, and they started the school, which is still open."

Her son, Michael, still remembers the days he enjoyed spending with his stay-at-home mother when she started the nursery school. "She was full of love and very giving. Her passion was teaching and that is why she enjoyed what she did," he said.

Born Sarah Mersereau in Toledo Hospital, she met her future husband when they both played together as 5-year-olds near a Shell gas station at Monroe Street and Goddard Road in West Toledo.

"She lived a block away from my father's gas station and we used to play together, but she was never my girlfriend," Mr. Coley recalled. They both graduated from DeVilbiss High School in 1957 before going on to the University of Toledo. She majored in elementary education; he studied biology and secondary education.

"We remained good friends when we went to UT," Mr. Coley recalled. "I used to fix her up on dates with my fraternity brothers until my sophomore year when I asked her out because I needed a date to a dance."

The couple were married on July 20, 1961, and lived in Warren, Ohio, for three years. She taught kindergarten while her husband fulfilled his Army service. In 1964, they returned to Toledo and Mrs. Coley became a stay-at-home mother as she raised the first two of her three sons.

She received a master's degree in early childhood education from UT in 1989. A consistent fan of the UT Rockets and Ohio State Buckeyes, she was involved in a number of community organizations for many years.

She was a member of First Baptist Church of Greater Toledo for more than 50 years and served on many of the church's boards, most recently as the chairman of the board of deacons.

She also was an active member of the Christ Child Society of Toledo, a past president of the Stone Oak Garden Club, and was active in the alumni chapter of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority.

She enjoyed cooking and golf, and spent much of her retirement traveling with her husband. "Italy was her favorite destination," her husband said. "She particularly loved Tuscany and once spent a week there learning how to cook some of her favorite dishes."

Surviving are her husband, Joe; sons, John, James, and Michael; brother, Charles Mersereau, and four grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. tomorrow in the Ansberg-West Funeral Home. A memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church. A memorial garden at the Toledo Zoo is planned in her memory, and the family suggests tributes to the Sarah Coley Memorial at the zoo.

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