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Published: Sunday, 5/21/2006

Children get final kisses

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Patricia Saunders, center, clutches a pillow at the funeral of Lauren, 10, and Jacob, 5. To her left is her father, Jim Staczek. Patricia Saunders, center, clutches a pillow at the funeral of Lauren, 10, and Jacob, 5. To her left is her father, Jim Staczek.
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Clutching a pillow to her abdomen to cushion where her husband stabbed her, Patricia Saunders gingerly leaned into the caskets of her slain children and kissed 10-year-old Lauren and 5-year-old Jacob for the last time.

And then, held by her brothers, Mrs. Saunders sobbed as the caskets were closed in the entrance of All Saints Catholic Church in Rossford.

Yesterday's funeral services, attended by about 250 people, occurred exactly one week after Clarence "Jack" Saunders stabbed his wife, shot a sheriff's deputy, and killed his children and himself in the family's southeastern Fulton County home.

Jacob was buried with the baby blankets with which he had still slept. Pinned to his striped shirt was a Rossford Fire Department badge, presented to the family at Friday's visitation by Rossford Fire Chief Jim Verbosky.

Lauren was dressed in a favorite pink jacket and wore a heart necklace that had been given to her by a neighbor boy. After she was killed, he stapled a note to the fence of her family's minifarm in Swancreek Township, asking that the necklace be put on her.

A photo of Lauren, taken several years ago with her horse Snickers, was in her casket along with one of the many plastic model horses from her collection - a Paint breed like Snickers.

The pillow Mrs. Saunders used was her children's favorite, Mrs. Saunders' brother, Mike Staczek, said. It was wrapped for the funeral in two prayer blankets. Lauren's hair barrettes and necklaces belonging to her and Jacob were attached to it.

A young mourner looks on as Lauren Sanders, 10, and her 5-year-old brother, Jacob, are buried in Swanton. A young mourner looks on as Lauren Sanders, 10, and her 5-year-old brother, Jacob, are buried in Swanton.
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The sermon, given by the Rev. Phillip Feltman, a relative of the Staczeks, used a text from the gospel of Mark that quotes Jesus saying, "Let the children come to me."

"We really cannot imagine the depth of your grief or your loss," Father Feltman told the family. "You have said, Patty, you lost the most important thing of your life."

But he went on to say, "God is more sad, more distraught over this tragedy than we are."

The children, he said, are not alone; they are in heaven and they are together. And Mrs. Saunders, he said, should not feel alone either but should think of Lauren and Jacob as her angels and look to them for peace.

"May this be their gift to you for all that you were to them," Father Feltman said.

Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn led the funeral procession of about 60 cars that drove to St. Richard's Cemetery in Swanton from the church.

Law enforcement authorities were stationed at almost all of the main intersections along the way through Perrysburg and Maumee and many of the officers saluted the family and the hearse as they passed on the drive, which took more than an hour.

At the cemetery, the family released two doves, given to them by a stranger.

Then Mrs. Saunders went back to the matching white and gold caskets and sobbed as someone plucked a few roses from Jacob's yellow and white arrangement and Lauren's pink arrangement and put the flowers in her shaking hands.

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-337-7780.



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