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Published: Friday, 6/29/2007

Teacher was active in civic, church groups

OAK HARBOR, Ohio - Sara Durbin, 77, who taught Ottawa County students for more than 40 years, first in cooking and sewing, then in social studies, died of cancer yesterday in her home here.

Mrs. Durbin retired in 1986 from full-time teaching at Oak Harbor Junior High School but for the next 12 years was a substitute teacher.

Much of her career was teaching social studies at the junior high.

"She was able to convey information about the world and various parts and peoples," her husband, Thomas L. Durbin, said. "She was interested in people.

"She had a way with children and with people. When she said something, they all pretty much listened," he said.

She also took time to work with students individually and found them receptive to learning more, her husband said.

Being retired in the community where she taught, she encountered former students - or their parents or grandparents - "every time she walked out the door," her husband said.

When a former student stopped to chat, "she was elated because she had made an impression on the individual," her husband said. "They talked about the things they learned."

Mrs. Durbin grew up on a farm near Shreve, Ohio, where she did chores and learned to cook. Her parents were 4-H Club advisers in Wayne County. With that background, her husband said, she studied home economics at Bowling Green State University, from which she received a bachelor of science degree.

She began her career as a vocational home economics teacher and formerly taught at Carroll, Graytown, Rocky Ridge, and LaCarne schools. She worked 11 months a year and, besides classroom teaching, she was required to visit students' homes year-round.

"When a girl took up sewing and cooking, the state mandated that [the teacher] had to go to everyone's home and observe and help the family [and] have a meal every so often," her husband said.

She took leaves from teaching to care for her family. She later received certification from BGSU to teach junior high.

She was a former family nutritionist with the agricultural extension office in Oak Harbor. She was a 4-H judge at county and state fairs.

Mrs. Durbin was a member of St. Boniface Church, where she was a member of the Rosary Altar Society and the parish council. She was a eucharistic minister, a lector-commentator, and was chairman of the church festival's chicken barbecue.

She was recognized as a diocesan woman of the year by the Knights of Columbus.

She belonged to many social, service, and church organizations, and often when she was a member, she became an officer.

"She was a strong believer in teaching people and showing them the right way to do things according to the rules," her husband said. "She showed them by example."

She was a presiding judge and poll worker for the Ottawa County Board of Elections.

She was an eight-gallon blood donor to the American Red Cross, and she helped out during blood drives.

In retirement, she and her husband traveled the world, often visiting the places she'd taught her students about.

Mrs. Durbin was a 1948 graduate of Shreve High School, where she played tuba, trombone, and french horn in the band and was class valedictorian. While in high school, she was scorekeeper for athletic events. In later years, she kept score for her children's and grandchildren's baseball games.

Surviving are her husband, Thomas L. Durbin, whom she married June 20, 1953; sons, Thomas E., Edward, Michael, Steven, and Jeffrey Durbin; daughters, Diane Dehring and Barb Murzynski; brothers, John, William, Marvin, and James Aylsworth; sister, Sharon Emler; 13 grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

The body will be in the Robinson-Walker Funeral Home, Oak Harbor, after 2 p.m. today, with a St. Boniface parish wake service at 8:30 tonight in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in St. Boniface Church, Oak Harbor.

The family suggests tributes to Birthright of Ottawa County; the Catholic Knights of Ohio Vocation Fund, or the church renovation and beautification fund.

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