Donald Robinson Saunders

Generations of Saunders and Curry descendants played along the Green Turtle Cay shores in Abaco, Bahamas.  Included in this company were the Curry sisters,  Edith “Edie” and Bessie.  As noted in prior posts, Edie married Robbie Saunders and Bessie married Howard Lowe.  Like their parents and grandparents, they raised their families on this remote Cay of the British Empire.  This required reliance on God’s provisions from the land and sea for sustenance.

Here we meet Edie’s son, Donald Robinson Saunders. Born in July 1924, Edie and Robbie welcomed a son into their family, the fourth of five children.

Ma Saunders Family
Widow Edie with her five children. Photo courtesy of Mary Saunders McCluskey, Donald’s daughter.

Back (L to R): Donald, Deloris, Cedric.  Front (L to R): Sybil, Edie, Audrey.

Donald Saunders Birtha.jpg
Entry #1 – Birth of Virginia Curry to Herman Curry and Mae Gates Curry / Entry #5 – Birth of Donald Saunders to Robbie Saunders and Edith Curry Saunders

Three weeks prior to Donald’s birth, Edie’s brother Herman and wife Mae Gates Curry welcomed their first child, daughter Virginia Sylvia (just a few weeks ago, Virgie Curry Carey passed away at the age of 91).  The next year (1925), their sister Bessie gave birth to my Dad, John Wesley Lowe.  Many from this generation of Abaconians broke the traditional role of raising their families on that same island.

These first cousins, all less than a year apart, spent their school days climbing the hill to the Green Turtle Cay All-Age School and fishing from the dock with occasional tomfoolery.

A former Green Turtle Cay resident recalls:

Most people at the Cay were poor, really poor.  Robbie (Saunders) fished with the other men on the Cay. They sold the fish by the pound. If an amberjack was caught at a certain time of the year, people wanted to buy some of this rarer treat.

The 1932 hurricane hovered. Persistent, strong winds weakened and smashed structures. Another perspective will add details of those days of horror.

Donald’s sister, Audrey Saunders, told Joy Lowe Jossi in a telephone interview:

My brother Donald was born 1924 in the stone hotel building that dad had owned. After Donald’s birth, mother was not well. The doctor said that she needed to live where she could breathe the fresh air. That’s when daddy built the house at the seaside. It stands today.

I was 10 years old when the 1932 hurricane shook us at Green Turtle Cay for three days and three nights. Donald was eight years.       

Our house, at the water’s edge, held fast. The separate dining room building fell. It blew away into the sea. Sammy Sawyer told us that he watched it float away. 

Afraid, we left our house and went to Aunt Lorrie’s house. Both fathers were absent. Mother held Donald close. She paced the room alongside Donald, his hand in hers. Her lower legs and feet swelled from the long days on them. 

My daddy and a group of men were on a fishing trip, caught away in the northern cays—Uncle Norwood, Uncle Cecil…and more. We kept watch with every boat that appeared, hoping that the men might return.

During the hurricane, people moved from one house to another for safety. Hartley Key’s roof fell in—some men passed children from one to another and into a dining room window.  

After the storm, lots of people slept in our house for shelter—Harold Hodgkins and his sister Nellie, and more…

Besides the hurricane terror, concern reigned for Donald’s father and the group of men caught far away at sea. Missing—ten heads of families. Did they perish in the hurricane?  The trauma that gripped hearts imprinted lifelong memories.  Exposed, the stranded men survived the hurricane.  They took shelter under the canvas of the boat that they dragged ashore. How did the 1932 hurricane impact this eight-year-old boy, Donald?

Donald’s schoolteacher Herbert Roberts and his young bride Emma along with Herbert’s parents took refuge in the stone kitchen of the teacher’s residence (now the Albert Lowe Museum property). Next door, the Captain Hartley Roberts’ large house sheltered nearly a hundred people, including my Dad.

Donald told his sister-in-law Joy Lowe Jossi…

Medical and other relief came from Nassau. The Nassau Board of Works sent Mr. Charles Harry Roberts to erect on the same hilltop site a new school building. The building is still in use. Mr. Harry Robert’s son, Junior Roberts, and I, became friends.

Herbert Roberts (1911-2003) served the Green Turtle Cay community as teacher 1931-1943 with assistant Amy Lowe Roberts. These fine leaders influenced Donald and my Dad.

Donald completed his foundational education at the Green Turtle Cay All-Age School at the age of 16, two years longer than the typical legal age 14.  The teacher, R. Herbert Roberts, told his young male students of available jobs at Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera. A wealthy American, Austin Levy, had developed Hatchet Bay Plantations, a dairy and poultry farm.

A local Bahamian newspaper reported:

In 1936 American Austin Levy purchased 2,000 acres of land at Hatchet Bay and started the successful farm that supplied the Bahamas with all of its milk, poultry, eggs and ice cream. Alice Town residents were fully employed.

In 1940, Dwight Roberts, Preston Albury, and Donald Saunders went to work at Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera. After a few months, Donald left Hatchet Bay. A surprise awaited him on arrival in Nassau. He discovered that his parents and family had come on the mail boat to stay (no cell phones back then). His older sister, Audrey, came to work at the Registrar General’s Office. Donald’s parents kept their house at Green Turtle Cay many years. Around this same time, my Dad and Grandma Bessie also relocated to Nassau.

In Nassau, Mr. Arthur Sands of Purity Bakery hired Robbie Saunders, his former classmate at Boys’ Grammar School. Uncle Robbie, and his son, Donald, worked at Purity Bakery. Bicycles transported Uncle Robbie and Donald to and from Purity Bakery, located on South Market Street just beyond the historic Gregory Arch landmark.

Through the years more Saunders family members joined the bakery crew: Donald’s brother Cedric, some nephews, and Charlie Lowe, spouse of Donald’s sister Deloris.

Donald proved himself reliable and eventually became part owner of Purity Bakery.

022 Don R Sdrs  .jpg
Donald R. Saunders.  Photo courtesy of Joy Lowe Jossi.

A family member says:

Donald, a capable, quiet person, was not given to small talk. He’d tackle any task. On-Call 24-hours, the bakery operation depended on him. If a machine faltered at night, Donald was called. He repaired and maintained the machines. This I could not imagine for him—the person I knew wore long-sleeved white shirt and tie with jacket. Could those hands tinker with grease and oil? Yes. Those strong hands showed no sign of all that they did.

He knew that he had cousin connections with Nassau businessmen Harold Saunders, Postmaster Claude Saunders, and Joseph S. Johnson, as well as Roland Saunders with Burdines of Miami. Historical records reveal Saunders families at Harbour Island, Eleuthera, a century before some moved to Abaco.

In Nassau, Donald lived across the street (Sears Road) from his future wife, Natalie Belle Lowe.  From her front porch she would watch the stately, well-dressed young man who worked at Purity Bakery.

N Nat Marg garage roof Sdrs hse
Sisters Natalie (L) and Marg (R). Saunders home porch in the background (circa 1953).  Photo courtesy of Joy Lowe Jossi

Natalie was the second of seven children born to Fanny and Clerihew Lowe of Nassau, formerly of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas.

082 sweet Nat Marg
Sisters Natalie (L) and Marg (R) (circa 1954).  Photo courtesy of Joy Lowe Jossi.

Natalie was the personal secretary to attorney Godfrey Higgs at the law firm of Higgs and Johnson.

 

Natalie refused to date Donald until he committed his life to Christ. On November 24, 1954, he attended a tent crusade where Scottish evangelist Bill Patterson conducted meetings. Donald placed his faith in God that evening. Soon afterwards a courtship with Natalie ensued.

084 Marg Donald Nat ~1954
L to R – Marg Lowe, Donald Saunders, Natalie Lowe (circa 1954).  Photo courtesy of Joy Lowe Jossi

On October 7, 1955, Donald, 31, and Natalie tied the knot at Shirley Heights Gospel Chapel in Nassau.

Donald Saunders and Natalie Lowe Marriage.jpgThree children, two girls and a boy, were born to this union. In June 1965, the family faced adversity with the premature birth of the youngest child. Weighing two pounds, two and a half ounces, the preemie boy Paul had to be airlifted to Miami for care. Dr. Meyers Rassin’s wife, Nurse Rosetta, accompanied the infant.

DNM
Donald Saunders and Natalie Lowe Saunders with daughter Mary (circa 1959).  Photo courtesy of grandson, Christopher McCluskey.

Donald’s strong family commitment stepped up when a need arose. He demonstrated care for each person. To his sister Audrey’s sons, he became a father figure.

Donald did self-effacement for the higher purpose. In the church group at Nassau’s Shirley Heights Gospel Chapel on Mount Royal Avenue, he supervised construction projects for the church. His home in Nassau included an apartment often used by missionaries.

At the age of 43 years, Donald retired from Purity Bakery upon its sale to Continental Baking Company in 1967. He continued to be a prudent businessman with investments.

N Papa & Nat's fam 1993 bw
L to R – Brian McCluskey, Christopher McCluskey, Mary Saunders McCluskey, Natalie Lowe Saunders, Donald Saunders, Judy Saunders, Paul Saunders.  Seated in front – Clerihew Lowe (circa 1993).  Photo courtesy of Joy Lowe Jossi.

In 1972, the family moved to Hollywood, Florida, where they joined the Hollywood Bible Chapel. Donald served as an elder, oversaw building renovations, taught Bible study classes, and preached to local congregations.

DNSa
Donald Saunders and Natalie Lowe Saunders in front of Hollywood Bible Chapel (circa 1978).  Photo courtesy of grandson Christopher McCluskey.

Meticulous in his work, his firm belief followed God’s Word, even when it was not popular to do so. He believed in not elevating any earthly man, but in all things to give God the preeminence.

After they moved to Florida, Donald’s son recalled his dad taking him and his sister to a lake to sail. Donald explained how to ‘tack’ and the way to scull—skills he had learned as a boy at Green Turtle Cay.

Donald was a faithful and devoted husband to wife Natalie for 41 years. She assisted him in sermon preparation. A wonderful father, he taught by word and example.

scan0078.jpg
Natalie Lowe Saunders and Donald Saunders (circa 1982).  Photo from collection of John and Doreen Lowe.

In 1995, Donald was diagnosed with cancer. Donald’s faith remained strong. In pain, he possessed inner peace from his Heavenly Father. In September 1996, Donald was called into the presence of the Lord he learned to love.  Lanny Evans, a family friend, wrote and presented the following tribute at Donald’s funeral.

“As We Knew Him”
Just a Man…
GOD’s Man
GOD’s Man of Purpose
GOD’s Man of Purposefully Planned Action
GOD’s Man Always Eager to Venture out for HIM
Just a Man…
But a Godly Man
A Man Who Knew the MIND OF GOD
Seeking IT with a Prayerful Passion
And a Zeal to Know HIS WILL and Do HIS WORK
And to See Others Brought Into the KINGDOM
Just a Man…
A Faithful Family Man
A Man Whose Heart and Soul
Glowed with the Warmth of GOD’s LOVE
Glowing for His Family, for You, for Me
Fueling and Firing His Every Activity
Just a Man…
But a Strong, Tall Friend
An Enduring, Faithful Friend
An Always Understanding Friend
A Forgiving Friend
A Friend Long on Godly Counsel and Time
Just a Man…
An “Assembly Man”
Committed to CHRIST’s CHURCH
A Man Who Loved GOD’s People
Burdened for Their Growth and Christian Maturity
Committed to Building – to the GLORY OF GOD
Just a Man…
But a Servant/Leader
A Student of the WORD
A Teacher of That Which He Had Learned
Faithful to Impart True Knowledge
A Wise Counselor, Applying the WORD to Life
Just a Man…
A Tender, Caring, Compassionate Man
A Generous, Giving Man
A Man of Wise Discernment
A Man of Common Sense
A Man Who Redeemed His Time
Just a Man…
But a Tireless Visionary
A “Maker of Things to Happen”
A Successful Man
An Example of a Man
A Trustworthy Man to All and to Whomever
Just a Man…
A Strong Man, Who Conveyed Strength
A Confident Man, Who Inspired Confidence
A Gentleman, Who Taught Meekness
A Righteous Man, Who Encouraged the Just
An Honest Man, Who Seeks Truth
Just a Man…
But a Blessed Man
A Greatly Favored Man
A Very Much Loved Man
Donald
As We Knew Him to Be
DRS
Donald R. Saunders (circa 1955). Photo courtesy of grandson Christopher McCluskey.

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