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Portal remembers, honors Frank Saunders
Memorial stone dedicated to town native
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Dr. Frank Saunders
      It was one year ago to the day on June 28, 2008 when Dr. R. Frank Saunders, Jr. proudly addressed several dozen local friends, neighbors, and GSU colleagues as he emceed the on-site dedication of Portal's Centennial Park .
       Dr. Saunders stood proud that day although many knew he had been diagnosed months earlier with Leukemia.
      A few months later, Dr. Saunders began chemotherapy treatments and just before Christmas, it was learned that Dr. Saunders was unable to recover from pneumonia. His final wishes were for his family to bury his ashes at the home place - the site of his birth. That was accomplished shortly after Dr. Saunders' death in late December 2008.
       Saturday many of the same friends, neighbors, and colleagues gathered again, only this time it was to show honor and respect, while gaining closure for the loss of this devoted community leader.
       Mayor Larry Motes extended a welcome to all those in attendance and introduced Dr. Donald Sparks for the invocation.
      Next Senator Jack Hill led the group offering thoughts and remembrances of Dr. Saunders. Senator Hill remembered coming over to Portal several years ago to meet with Frank and the mayor. "They blew me away with the Centennial Park drawings and plans. Frank and I went down to the site where I could get a better view of what the Portal Centennial Park Committee was attempting to achieve. Frank was already using sources and energy to promote success," he said.
      Senator Hill praised Dr. Saunders for his many positive contributions to the community and further commented favorably about Portal's talented people who have remained in the area or have kept Portal in their minds to return to.
      Long-time friend, Dr. Howard Jackson, was unable to make the trip from Richmond, Va., for the dedication service. Dr. Saundersí sister, Betty Saunders Anderson, read Dr. Jackson's farewell letter, entitled, "At Parting," which included: "I'll remember you when the soft breezes whisper through the pines and frogs serenade from the pond. I'll call to mind your belief that spring in South Georgia affords us a preview of heaven and proof that there is life after death."
      The two had been friends and colleagues tor 40 years.
      Dr. Don Rakestraw drove all night from Washington, D.C., where he participated in a conference ending on Friday. It was Dr. Saunders who decades ago interviewed and played a major role in Dr. Rakestraw coming to the History Department at GSU.
      Dr. Rakestraw's thoughts and remembrances of Dr. Saunders were expressed through guitar and a ballad that he had written while sitting on his dad's front porch in Alabama immediately after Dr. Saunders' death.
      Closing remarks by Mayor Motes reflected sincere appreciation to Dr. Saunders for his many years of sincere dedication to the Portal community. "Frank gave his best and he was surely a servant to others," he concluded.
      Mayor Motes introduced family members to participate in the dedication of the memorial and the unveiling of the memorial.
Dr. R. Frank Saunders, Jr., Professor Emeritus of History, GSU was one of three children born to Mollie L. Saunders and R. Frank Saunders, Sr. on the Saunders' farm east of Portal. His love for the farm and his family never diminished.
      Dr. Saunders attended school in Portal graduating in 1952. He earned his B.S.Ed. and M.Ed. degrees from Georgia Teachers' College, and his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.
      As an educator, Dr. Saunders taught at Midville High School, Portal High School, Augusta College, ABAC, and from 1968 -1996 at Georgia Southern College/University.
      According to his colleague, Dr. Donald Rakestraw, "It is safe to say that few have retired from GSU with as lasting a legacy as Dr. R. Frank Saunders, Jr."

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