Many of us who grew up in Lexington through the 1970’s have fond memories of Miss Eva. The following is an excerpt from a newspaper article in the Advertiser News dated October 25, 1975. Thanks to D’Ivory Hunter for sharing this from her mother’s archives.
“MISS EVA” SAUNDERS NAMED WOMAN OF YEAR (article by Lu Jaworsky)
“Miss Eva” Saunders, of 13 N. 24th Street in Lexington was selected Woman of the Year by the Lexington Business and Professional Women’s Club today.
She will be honored tomorrow at the club’s regular meeting at the Victory. The speaker for the event will be Ed Ellis.
The Woman of the Year selection is the highlight of B.P.W. Week which runs Oct. 19-25.
“Miss Eva” is actually Mrs. Emmanuel Saunders but has been affectionately called “Miss Eva” by her legions of friends and admirers for many years.
“Miss Eva” was born in Lexington on Jan. 25, 1893 in what was then called Hungry Hill in the area which is now Memorial Hospital. Her roots run deep in the soil of Lexington.
She was the only child of William “Bump” Hunter and Sarah Colley Hunter, who were also born here.
She lived and worked in her father’s restaurant and grocery store from the age of eight to twenty-five. The establishment was in the Masonic Hall on N. 10th Street, and she can still remember delivering groceries in a horse and wagon.
She married Emmanuel Saunders in 1925. He was then a coal miner and became a carpenter in later life. He died in 1956. [ed. note-Emmanuel was a veteran of World War I]
“Miss Eva” was a graduate of Douglass High School in Lexington and attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City and Central Missouri State Teacher’s College in Warrensburg.
Her remarkable teaching career spans 47 years. She began teaching in Huntsdale in 1913-14 and became a substitute teacher in Lexington the following year. She then became a regular teacher at Douglass under the tutorship of Prof. George Green.
Prof. Green was a “major influence in my life and was like a father to every boy and girl” she says. Besides being the principal, he was a noted mathematician and a great humanitarian, she says.
She taught at Douglass from 1916-35. From 1949-52 she taught in Mayview then came back to Douglass where she taught until her retirement in 1956.
“Miss Eva” says she tried to maintain strict discipline in her classes and one of her favorite expressions was “I’ll knock you flatter than a dime.” She says many of the students she threatened to “flatten “now give her credit for making them what they are today. Although she considers the fact that she never had any children of her own one of the great disappointments of her life, children have always been the focus of her life. “I’ve had hundreds of children and I’ve loved them all” she says. “Being with young people is one of my greatest joys.”
She was an organizer of Teen Town, back when it was in the Gunther home at the present site of Pat’s Quick Stop. She was its mainstay and kept it going thru the force of her will for many years. She was also a guiding light of Operation Head Start and the Neighborhood Youth Corps.
“Miss Eva” has lived in the same house since 1917 and a real treat is listening to her as her remarkable memory goes back to Lexington at the turn of the century. She recounts in vivid detail how they would hitch up the sleigh and ride to Higginsville to visit the Bentons or to Mayview where they always had hot cocoa at the LIttons.
One of her most interesting recollections is when Lexington’s only undertaker had three horse-drawn hearses-a white one for children, a gray one for the middle-aged and a black one only for those blessed with a long span of years.
The church has always played a key role in her life. She began her church life at an early age with the Zion AME Church. She has been an organist; sang in the chorus; president of the Missionary Society; church secretary; member of the Steward Board; Sunday School teacher and superintendent and music director. She has also been a member and treasurer of the Lexington United Church Women.
She still likes to sing and takes great pleasure at the meals for the elderly at the Middle School and the sing-a-long that follows.
“Miss Eva” has been honored many times in her long and productive life. In 1970, a special proclamation was signed by Mayor Henry Dankers, announcing Eva Saunders Appreciation Day. Over 300 friends gathered at the Grace Lutheran Church to pay tribute to this great lady. Most of Lexington’s clubs and organizations turned out and presented her with awards and certificates which she proudly displays in her home.
On Oct. 10 she was an honored guest at a dinner for Loula Grace Erdman, the author on a book on the War between the States – “Save Weeping for the Night.” A major character in the book is William Hunter, “Miss Eva’s” grandfather, who was General Joe Shelby’s servant and body guard.
The Business and Professional Woman’s Club went thru a different procedure in picking the winner this year. They sent applications to 25 clubs, asking for suggestions. Virgie Brooks, chairman of the Woman of the Year Committee said that it was a difficult choice this year – with so many fine names to choose from. “Miss Eva” was submitted by chapter 664 of AARP.
“Miss Eva’s” reaction to being selected was “Lord am I worthy?”
“Miss Eva” has led a long rich life and has enriched and inspired every life she has ever touched. We feel that she is worthy.
Miss Eva died in June of 1986 and is buried next to her husband Emmanual. One of our goals is to get her a headstone.
Personal memory: When I was in 5th grade, we had Vacation Bible School with the Episcopal church and maybe the UCC church. I was from the Presbyterian church. Mis Eva was our teacher. She would break out singing hymns spontaneously and, to my great surprise, she talked about God like she knew Him. Something in my spirit took note. I had NEVER heard anyone talk like that before! I count Miss Eva as one of my spiritual mothers. I am forever grateful to her. (Rev. Marcia Cope Fleischman)
Personal memory: I first met Miss Eva when I was in kindergarten and she played honky tonk piano for the cakewalk at the “festival” at Bell Elementary. In later years I would visit her at her home just to listen to her play piano. She was an amazing lady. (Judy Gover Lindquist)