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Marion Saunders


Last updated 2/8/2019 at 11:54am

Marion Saunders delighted the world when she was born Dec. 6, 1923, in San Diego. Her parents, Lola and George Stephens, had three active boys, Milton, Warren and Bob, when their darling girl arrived.

She was supposed to be dainty and quiet. Nope, Marion had her own ideas. She danced when dancing wasn’t allowed in her household, did cartwheels and handstands whenever she could, chewed gum that was not really gum, but tar which she and her friends picked up from the newly paved streets of San Diego and argued with her brother Bob, the next youngest in the family because he wouldn’t let her play with his pet “Turken,” a chicken-turkey cross, which used to ride on the handlebars of his bicycle.

She tried to be a good daughter, so she learned to ice skate instead of dance, and thought she might even become a professional until she missed a jump and landed on her tailbone, breaking not only her bone, but her dreams.

When she was 8 years old, her mother took her and her brothers Warren and Bob on a cross country trip by automobile to see her brother Milton graduate from Annapolis Naval Academy. It was in the height of the Dust Bowl sand storms, and they had to stop every 10 miles to clean off the dirt which built up on the carburetor.

Back in San Diego, she saved up her babysitting money and spent it on renting horses every Saturday to ride all over Mission Valley, which are now covered in malls and highways. During the week, she practiced piano, did well in school and babysat every day after class. When she excelled at piano, her beloved grandmother, Rachel Powell, gave her piano to Marion.

By the time she got to San Diego High School, she was an excellent pianist and vocalist, singing in choir at her church and many others, and she did finally get her mom to relent and let her take dancing lessons with her good friend Peggy Pine if she promised to go to church right afterward.

When she was 12 years old, she went camping in Sequoia National Park with Peggy and her family and fell in love with the giant trees. She wrote a song about Sequoia and sang whenever she visited Sequoia. She sang it to Rick and Vicki when they took her to Sequoia to celebrate her first wedding anniversary after her husband Dick’s death in 2006.

In high school, she still roamed all over Mission Valley, but now it was with her brother Warren, riding with him on his motorcycle. Her piano teacher recommended her for a music scholarship to go to Hardin Simmons in Abilene, Texas. Marion was delighted to go because she found out she could join their horseback riding team.

In Texas, she learned to do trick riding while still excelling in her studies. Then, her world changed.

A friend introduced her to a GI who was also from San Diego. His name was Dick Saunders. Three days after he met her, he asked her to marry him. She laughed and told him to come back in two years. Coming out of a movie theater on a date Dec. 7, 1941, they were met with the news Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Dick was called back to base and posted to Panama; Marion headed back to San Diego to be with her mom and became a telephone operator for the Navy.

Two years later, after long distance letters, Dick showed up on her doorstep, and they decided to get married. She went to Oklahoma where he was stationed, and they were married in June.

Of course, there are many more chapters to their love story, but the ones you need to know about are after the war. Dick used the GI bill to get his master’s in education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. Afterward they moved to Camp Verde, Arizona, where Dick taught high school and Marion was at home raising their two children, Vicky and Rick. By 1953, they missed their extended families and the Pacific Ocean, so they moved to Fallbrook, where Dick taught junior high, and Marion worked first, as a nursery school teacher, and later, as a secretary at the hospital on U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

They were active members of Fallbrook Methodist Church. Marion and Dick taught over 2,000 people to swim during the 10 years they ran the Summer Swim Program for the town of Fallbrook. Even before Dick retired, they had a camper van and loved traveling and camping and fishing and visiting friends and relatives. They made friends wherever they went. They cherished their get-togethers with their brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews.

Eventually their children married and had children. Grandma Marion loved being a grandma. She glowed when she talked about them and to them. She was interested in everything they did. Then, somehow, the years flew by, and her grandchildren grew up and had their own children, and she was a great-grandmother.

Of course, anyone who knows her knows she just expanded her heart and her arms and her range of interests. She was interested in the lives of all her family, siblings, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, in-laws and out-laws. She never forgot anyone’s birthday. She kept a calendar which is really a diary for the whole extended family. In fact, her children still called her anytime they needed to know a birthday or an appointment or travel plans, their own or anyone else’s.

Marion Saunders will be missed by all who knew her. She is survived by her two children and their spouses, seven grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and her extended family and friends.

There will be a Celebration of Life for Marion Saunders Saturday, Feb. 9, at 1:30 p.m. at Fallbrook Methodist Church, 1844 Winter Haven Road, in Fallbrook; arrangements by Berry-Bell and Hall, Fallbrook Mortuary Inc. Donations in lieu of flowers to Fallbrook Methodist Church or a charity of your choice.


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