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Published: Monday, 5/5/2008

Well-respected educator played golf into her 90s

AVON, Ohio - Nellie E. Peters, 98, an elementary teacher and school principal in Ottawa County's Carroll Township, died Thursday at Avon Oaks, an assisted-living facility in the Cleveland area where she'd been living for about 18 months.

She was known as a strict and well-respected educator, who first taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Oak Harbor after graduating from Bowling Green State University.

She was born Feb. 13, 1910, in Haskins, Ohio, to John and Yettie Burditt. One of seven daughters, her parents paid for the oldest to attend college. When the young woman graduated, she was to pay the tuition of the next younger sister who desired to go, and so on.

On May 24, 1931, she married Luther Peters. He died in February, 1995, three months before their 64th anniversary.

She was forced by tradition to quit teaching when she married, her daughter, Shirley Rice, said. She would later rise to school principal, and would receive a master's in education from BGSU in 1965.

She gave birth to both her children at home, Shirley in 1932 and Luther in 1933.

Mrs. Peters returned to teaching in the mid 1940s, about the time when she and her husband purchased a 10-acre farm they turned into an apple orchard, known to locals as Luther Peters' Orchard.

"Mom was a workhorse," her son, Luther, said. "She would teach school and then come home and help dad. She really put in a lot of time."

The couple sold apples, sweet corn, vegetables, and apple cider at a small fruit stand in Oak Harbor.

She was a stern disciplinarian, but never took a hand to her children, they said.

"She never paddled us," the younger Mr. Peters, the self-described "rebellious one," said. "It was always a stern lecture or the look."

When her two children were older, Mrs. Peters and her husband spent winters in Bradenton, Fla.

Several of Mrs. Peters' sisters and their spouses spent the time together there in a vacation mobile home park.

After her husband's death, Mrs. Peters stayed busy. She was an avid gardener and loved to read and play shuffleboard.

Until her early 90s, she also was a dedicated quilter, and hand-stitched quilts for each of her five grandchildren.

She was active at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oak Harbor, volunteering to bake pies and to cook dinners for church functions. She also taught Bible school and was part of the altar guild.

She was an excellent golfer until she quit at 93 years old, her children said, and she always opted to walk the 18 holes rather than ride in a golf cart.

Mrs. Peters was in excellent health for most of her life, refusing alcoholic beverages, pills, and pain medication. Her very first hospital stay was in 1993 when she broke a hip, her children said.

Longevity seems to run in the family, Mrs. Rice said.

Mrs. Peters' last living sister, Cora Digby, of Oak Harbor, is 101 years old.

Mrs. Peters continued living on the farm, which was operated by a family friend, until 18 months ago. The apple trees on the farm had been removed in the early 1980s, her children said.

Surviving are her daughter, Shirley Rice; son, Luther; sister, Cora Digby; five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be after 2 p.m. today in the Robinson-Walker Funeral Home, Oak Harbor. Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Oak Harbor.

The family suggests tributes to the church.



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