Grace Saun­ders: April 29, 1924 - Sept 13, 2011

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

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

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