Hazel Marie Saunders (1913 - 2009)

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Hazel Marie Saunders, 95, of Ennis passed away Jan. 28, 2009. She had been a resident at Madison Valley Manor since July 2003. Hazel was born in Yacolt, Wash., on Nov. 3, 1913. She moved to the Madison Valley when she was 3 months old, and spent the remaining years of her life in the valley.

Hazel lost her mother when she was a very young child, and her father, a local ranch hand, found if difficult to take Hazel with him when he worked so he asked various families in the valley to help him care for her and her brother, Elwin Grady.

Hazel started her school career in the small settlement of Abe (near Wall Creek in the upper Madison). When the Abe School was abandoned, she transferred to Ennis where she completed high school. She attended Montana Normal School at Dillon (now Western Montana University, Dillon) for one year.

She returned to Ennis, and on Sept. 3, 1934, she married the local sports hero, Byron Saunders. She and her husband lived in and helped run the Ennis Hotel (now the Blue Heron Antiques and Gifts). Both of her children were born in the hotel.

At the beginning of World War II, the family moved into the Ennis telephone office (located where the Shedhorn Sporting Good store is now located). Byron kept the equipment running and strung telephone lines throughout the valley, and Hazel was the friendly telephone switchboard operator. They also operated the local state liquor store.

In the 1950s she and Byron purchased the Saunder's Hotel located on the Main Street of Ennis. She also was secretary to the Paugh's Insurance Agency. For many years she was the secretary-treasurer of Ennis Cemetery.

She and Byron enjoyed sitting on the front porch of the hotel and watching the people and cars pass by. Almost everyone who walked by would wave and perhaps stop in and say "hello," for most of the people in Ennis knew Hazel and Byron.

Byron preceded her in death.

Survivors include her brother, Elwin Grady of Great Falls; her son, Raymon Saunders of Renton, Wash.; daughter, Beverly Saunders Whitman of Ennis; seven grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren.

Hazel was loved and respected by everyone with whom she came in contact. We know that she will always be with us in our hearts and souls.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Feb. 2, at K & L Mortuaries.

In lieu of flowers please make a donation to the Madison Valley Historical Society.
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K & L Mortuaries
103 1st Ave E
Three Forks, MT 59752
(406) 285-3341
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Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Jan. 31, 2009
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