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1964 English teacher

March 10, 1901 - June 19, 2003

Sara Katzenstein was a remarkable woman and a gifted teacher who always maintained a no-nonsense, yet caring atmosphere in her classrooms. We called her "Old Lady Katzenstein," (behind her back, of course!), but those of us who were once her students, either at Bretton Woods Elementary or Waverly Junior High, are infinitely better off for having been taught by one of the finest.

Sara died peacefully in her sleep at age 102.

  • Dan Fuller (Class of 1967)... "I had Mrs. Katzenstein for 5th and 7th grade. My favorite teacher of all time! I still practice those Palmer writing skills occasionally, and still get comments on what great handwriting I have. Just one of many skills she taught me that will last a lifetime. I still have some papers she corrected from 7th grade English with some funny critiques on it. My siblings are 9 years older, 6 years older, and 3 years younger... we ALL had her for a teacher. I was lucky to have had her TWICE."

  • Laura Potter (Class of 1969)... "I remember her class very clearly. I once wrote a poem satirizing her, which she found and got a kick out of, particularly my reference to her 'blue hair.' I wrote my script Xs wrong, so she once made me go up to the blackboard and write them correctly 100 times! She was indeed one of my favorites."

  • Deb Simpson (Class of 1970)... "How I enjoyed Sara Katzenstein. I had her in 7th grade English class and loved her!"

  • Deb (Theaker) Moore (Class of 1969)... "Mrs. Katzenstein was one of my favorite teachers, I think in part due to her insistence of perfection in speaking and writing the English language! I credit all of my love for written expression and reading to that woman. There should be many more like her in today's schools!"
Oct. 2002

Even at 102, Sara Katzenstein would walk to the dining hall for meals, get her hair done at the beauty shoppe, attend church, and participate in social activities... all within her retirement community. What a grand lady! I visited her in October 2002 at her retirement community in Hialeah, Florida.

Sara taught school for 35 years... nine at Bretton Woods Elementary (it's now the Delta Waverly Library). She later taught at Waverly Junior High (it's now the Intermediate School). You may have had her for 7th grade English back in 1964. She had many fond memories of her years teaching in the Waverly Schools, and told me things about many of my classmates with incredible clarity... even at 102!

My memories of Sara Katzenstein go back to 3rd grade (1960) at Bretton Woods Elementary School (part of Waverly Schools then, but closed long ago). My brother Tom was three years older, and would come home with terrorizing stories about "Old Lady Katzenstein." He would tell me what a mean, terrible person she was... and how I'd better pray I didn't get her when I got to 6th grade. By the time I reached 6th grade, Mrs. Katzenstein had moved on to the Junior High. It was a year later (1964) before I finally met the infamous "Old Lady Katzenstein," now my 7th grade English teacher. It wasn't until then that I learned how totally wrong (or intentionally misleading) my brother had been. She was very strict but very caring, always challenging her students to reach for more. If I have any communication skills at all, it's because Sara Katzenstein put me on that path. I owe much to her. Several years ago, I wrote to Sara and told her my "Old Lady Katzenstein" story. When I visited after that, she'd ask, "Are you here to see that Old Lady Katzenstein again?!" Then she'd laugh.

The US Census Bureau tells us that only one out of every 10,000 Americans lives to see the age of 100, making them a Centenarian. That may be true statistically, but Sara Katzenstein was "one in a million." She was spry, witty, and a joy to be around. A remarkable, lovely lady, especially at 102.

Here are some photos of Sara, along with her niece and nephew Harriet and John Mertz who lovingly attended to all of Sara's needs for so many years.

Walking to dinner, Oct. 2002 Oct. 2002

With niece Harriet & nephew John, Oct. 2002 Niece Harriet & Sara, Oct. 2002 Niece Harriet & nephew John, Mar. 2001 Nephew John & niece Harriet, Oct. 2002 Teacher & student, Oct. 2002

In May 2003, Sara's retirement community threw a big bash in her honor. Her niece Harriet told me that Sara was picked up by limousine and whisked off to a swanky restaurant where everyone made a big to-do over Sara, deservedly so! When the band leader asked her what song she would like them to play in her honor, she said, "Jesus Loves Me." Everyone roared.

...Bob Nelson

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