Grace Saunders: April 29, 1924 - Sept 13, 2011
Esther Grace Saunders was the eldest of three children born to Lillah and Arthur Kruse on April 29, 1924 in Manaia.
In 1941 the then 17 year old moved with her family to Tokoroa, population 248, after her father purchased a farm in the town.
As a teenager during the war Mrs Saunders heard an appeal from the air force on the radio while she was milking the cows and filled out an application form and sent it off.
Mrs Saunders’ mother was against her going into the forces, so the plucky 19 year old forged her signature to become a driver for the air force.
Mrs Saunders’ unit was the first to allow women to wear trousers in the forces. It was her job to take all the material to the tailors so she asked the tailor if her trousers could be made to suit her taste, wider at the bottom and she got away with it.
The war ended when Mrs Saunders turned 21 and life for this outgoing woman was too quiet in Tokoroa, so upon hearing an appeal for nurses, Mrs Saunders applied to do 18 months’ maternity training.
Nurses stationed with Mrs Saunders recalled a vibrant woman who, with her friend Jo Mackenzie, could be heard playing and singing a duet on the piano.
After one night shift Mrs Saunders and a group of friends decided to head to the Frankton town hall for the Saturday night dance.
As she walked through the Frankton Town Hall doors her eyes met those of a very talented trumpet player, Noel Saunders. He put down his trumpet, a thing he never does, and asked her to dance.
Mr Saunders rang the next day and the romance began. Six months later the soul mates were married in Putaruru and settled back in Tokoroa in 1949.
Mrs Saunders helped start a number of community groups. She was an organist for churches, a foundation member of the women’s section of the RSA, South Waikato branch of the RNZAF association and a foundation member of Birthright in Tokoroa, the Rakaunui Club.
Mrs Saunders was made an honorary member of the Lions Club and received the prestigious Lloyd Morgan Award for her services to the less fortunate members of the community. She was also the bass drummer in the Tokoroa Citizen’s Silver Band for many years.
Mrs Saunders, a vibrant, caring and courageous woman died peacefully at Tokoroa Hospital on September 13, 2011 aged 87 years.
She is survived by her husband, six children, 18 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren.
Esther Grace Saunders