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Anchorage resident Alma Gene "Gene" Saunders, 80, died March 19, 2009, of a stroke and diabetes complications at Providence Alaska Medical Center. A celebration of life will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Evergreen Memorial Chapel. The officiant will be Father Eric. Her cremated remains will be scattered in Natick, Mass.
Gene was born Dec. 13, 1928, in Carrollton, Ky. In 1951, she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English and political science from Hanover College in Hanover, Ind. She received a master's degree in education administration at Kent State University, and a master's in psychology at Akron University. Before moving to Alaska in 1982, Gene lived in Akron from 1954-1982 and Washington, D.C., and Natick, Mass., from 1951-1953
She worked at the Anchorage School District as a teacher at Chugiak Elementary School from 1983-1997, and Akron Public School in Akron from 1958-1981. During this time she worked at Lane, David Hill, Hatton, Fairlawn and Windemere Elementary Schools and Thornton Junior High School. She retired from the Anchorage School District at Chugiak Elementary in 1997.
She was affiliated with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., the Alaska Alumnae Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma and Phi Beta Kappa. She was also a member of St. Anthony and Elizabeth Ann Seton parishes. She was a member of Akron Catholic Commission and was a Jennings Scholar and was listed in Who's Who in American Education from 1989-1990.
Her favorite hobbies were playing the piano, reading, writing poetry, modern art, science, discussing politics, gardening, playing golf and viewing nature, especially mountains and wildlife. She loved dogs, and before having grandkids, she always said, "I have granddogs."
Her family wrote: "Gene spent most of her work life improving the world through education and community involvement. As the first African American to integrate and graduate from Hanover College in 1951, she marched in D.C. and remained committed to civil rights for all. She taught for nearly 40 years and served in numerous community and religious organizations. Despite her worsening health, she enjoyed time with her family and friends, and discussing politics and sports. We will deeply miss her infectious smiles, wit and love for humanity."
Survivors include her daughter, Stacey Saunders; son-in-law, Michael Cohn of Anchorage; grandson, Aaron Cohn; son, Marc Saunders; daughter-in-law, Adele Fraser; granddaughters, Chanelle Fraser and Briece Saunders; brother-in-law, Jack Brightwell; nieces, Donna Johnson-Thomas and Laura Denise Jung; and other relatives. She was preceded in death by her husband, Edward Saunders; mother, Ethel Thompson; and siblings, Florence Purdue, Willa Brightwell and Robert Prince. The family requests that donations, in lieu of flowers, go to Alzheimer's Resource of Alaska, 1750 Abbott Road, Anchorage 99507, or to the American Diabetes Association and/or No One Dies Alone Program, Providence Alaska Medical Center, P.O. Box 196604, Anchorage 99519-9984. Arrangements are with Janssen's Evergreen Memorial Chapel.