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Published: Monday, 5/3/2010

Retired teacher loved learning

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sharon Rose Lestage, 73, a Perrysburg resident who taught elementary school for 36 years and was a "host grandmother" for her son's foreign exchange students, died Tuesday of pneumonia at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.

Mrs. Lestage taught in Oregon City Schools for 34 years before retiring in 1999.

"She really cared a lot about people" in her classrooms and outside of school, her son, Scott Keith, said.

"She didn't turn her back on them. She went out of her way to help them" through their problems.

"If this was one of her students having a funeral, she would have been there," Mr. Keith said. "She was also that kind of a mother to us."

Mrs. Lestage was born on March 10, 1937, in Toledo to Warren and Geneva Stretchbery and grew up as a neighbor of George Pearson, a reporter for The Blade who championed the purchase of land that became Pearson Park, her son said.

Mr. Keith said the park became a family favorite.

She attended Bowling Green State University, graduating magna cum laude. She received her master's degree at the University of Toledo, from which she later obtained a specialist degree in reading, said her daughter, Sue Osenbaugh.

"She loved teaching and she loved learning," Mrs. Osenbaugh said.

In addition to school classrooms, Mrs. Lestage taught Bible classes to adults and children for the Oregon Church of the Nazarene.

She began her teaching career with the Toledo Public Schools at East Side Central Elementary School.

But after her second year, she switched to the Oregon schools, teaching third grade at Jerusalem and later sixth grade at Eisenhower. Mr. Keith said he had his mother as a teacher briefly when she worked as a substitute when he attended sixth grade.

Her devotion to young people wasn't confined to the classroom.

When her son and his wife hosted 23 foreign students over an 11-year span, she became their surrogate grandmother, Mr. Keith said.

"That made my mom a host grandmother," he said, adding that she continued to correspond with the students once they returned to their own countries.

After she retired, she and her husband Rocky Lestage, traveled often.

She was diagnosed with Sjogren Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that affected her lungs and later contributed to pneumonia, Mr Keith said.

She never lost her desire to educate people, even while she was in the hospital. It was there she expressed a goal of writing a book that would outline the importance of helping ill people who don't have families, Mr. Keith said.

Mrs. Lestage was a familiar figure at her grandchildren's activities. She helped coach her daughter's softball team and she was a Cub Scout leader, Mrs. Osenbaugh said.

During the years that Mrs. Osenbaugh's daughter was on a swim team, Mrs. Lestage was there to cheer her on.

"She came to every single swim meet in 12 years, except when she had to have chemotherapy," Mrs. Osenbaugh said.

She is survived by her second husband, Rocky Lestage, son, Scott Keith, daughter, Sue Osenbaugh, stepson, Michael Lestage, three grandchildren, and two step-grandchildren.

The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. today at Eggleston Meinert Pavley Funeral Home, Oregon.

The family suggests memorials to the Sjogren Syndrome Foundation.

Contact: Jim Sielicki at:

jsielicki@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050



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