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Published: Tuesday, 6/8/2010

Teacher was avid advocate for children

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

WAUSEON - Alta Joe Saunders, 86, a retired second-grade and learning-disabilities teacher involved in numerous volunteer activities, died Saturday at Fulton Manor Nursing Home, Wauseon.

A mother of six, she was a compassionate educator known for going "above and beyond" the call of duty, according to one of her sons, Chuck Saunders.

He said his mother was a fierce advocate of equal access to education. At one point in her career, she took it upon herself to pick up some of her students at their homes and drive them to and from school.

She did a lot of free tutoring and even gave some students free haircuts, her son said.

"She was always about trying to help other people out," Mr. Saunders said.

She split her career among the Wauseon, Fulton (now Evergreen Local Schools), and Pike-Delta-York school districts.

"It seems like every time I would talk to Mom, she would get stopped by somebody and she would tell me later, 'I had them in second grade,'•" her oldest daughter, Malinda Sue Maltman, said. "She liked being around people. She was a very social person."

Mrs. Saunders was born and raised in Rogers, Ark., but lived most of her adult life in Fulton County after marrying Herbert Saunders in 1942. He died in 1991. The couple spent three years of retirement in Lakeside, Ohio.

Mrs. Saunders embarked on her teaching career after having six children and being out of school for more than 20 years. She received her bachelor and master's degrees from Bowling Green State University.

She spent years as a Sunday school teacher and as a Methodist Youth Fellowship adviser. She was a Girl Scout troop leader, a past president of the Wauseon Women's Club, a member of the Fulton County Retired Teachers Association, and a literacy program volunteer. She read books to children on a public-access cable TV channel, and tutored at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio.

Survivors include her daughters, Malinda Sue Maltman, Hazel Sharon Upperco, Nancy Ann Saunders, and Mary Jo Harbour, sons, Herbert L. and Chuck, plus many grandchildren, step-grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and step-great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Christ United Methodist Church, Wauseon. The family is to begin meeting with friends there at 10 a.m. In keeping with her interest in teaching, Mrs. Saunders requested that her body be donated to the University of Toledo medical school, formerly the Medical College of Ohio.

The family requests that any donations be made to Christ United Methodist Church, North Dover United Methodist Church, or the Fulton Manor Nursing Home's activity department.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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