On January 7, 2020, Lucy Emma Bartee Saunders passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by family. Lucy was born January 27, 1921 in Kansas City, Kansas to Ellis and Eliza Clemons Bartee. She was the third of five children. Lucy was preceded in death by her parents; loving husband of 59 years, Stanley Anthony Saunders; daughter (passed at birth); son, David Anthony Saunders; son-in-law, Cedric Thompson; granddaughter, Tara Nab; sister, Ethel Mayweather; three brothers, Ellis Bartee and twins Albert and Alfred Bartee.
Lucy accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior at an early age. As a child, she was enrolled in what was called the “cradle roll” at Eighth Street Baptist Church in Kansas City, KS. As a youth, she attended Mount Zion Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas where she remained a member until her early 20’s. In 1943, Lucy joined Third Street Church of God, 1907 N. 3rd Street in Kansas City, KS (currently New Seasons Christian Church) where she was a dedicated member for 75 years. Lucy served as head of the deaconess board, choir member, prayer warrior, and she actively participated in community outreach ministries.
Lucy attended Douglas Elementary, Stowe Elementary, and Northeast Junior High School. In 1939, she graduated from Sumner High School in Kansas City, KS.
Lucy’s strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and firm belief in the power of prayer was quite evident in her life. In the early 1940s, Lucy became a part of history when she was among the first group of African Americans hired at the North American Bomber Plant in the Fairfax district of Kansas City, KS. Historical articles reflect that “Negroes would only be considered for janitorial roles or other similar capacities. Negroes were not allowed to be employed as aircraft workers or mechanics in the plant”. Through much determination, Lucy was eventually hired as an assembly aircraft worker.
On June 7, 1944, Lucy was united in holy matrimony to Stanley Anthony Saunders at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas. To this union, twelve children were born. One infant daughter passed away at birth. After marriage, Lucy joined her husband at Third Street Church of God.
During the summer of 1965, Lucy pursued her college education and earned an Associate’s degree from Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. She was determined to continue her education and she took a few classes at a time while raising her children. At the “young age of 61”, she earned a Bachelor of General Studies degree from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas in May 1982.
In the mid-1970s, Lucy was one of seven individuals appointed by Commissioner James P. Davis, Sr. to serve on the first “Mental Retardation Governing Board” in Wyandotte County. These pioneers succeeded in establishing a sheltered workshop, transportation for clients, and the construction of a group home in Wyandotte County. Lucy became a great resource for others, and she developed a passion for helping children with special needs. Lucy worked as a special education substitute teacher in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools for more than 40 years, concluding her career at the age of 90. Many who worked with Lucy talked about her natural skills as an educator. She was well-respected because she was firm, yet kind and compassionate. When Lucy served as a substitute teacher, she was known to start the day with prayer and reading a scripture in the classroom - - Yes, she prayed for the students and all of the teachers. She believed in the power of prayer. Lucy wanted everyone to know that “special needs children should be judged on what they CAN do, instead of what they cannot do”.
Lucy and her husband, Stanley, had a love for instrumental and vocal music. Lucy’s two brothers, Ellis Bartee and Albert Bartee, were professional drummers who traveled internationally with popular jazz artists; such as, Jay McShann, Charlie “Bird” Parker, and Lionel Hampton. Stanley and Lucy nurtured and instilled an appreciation for music in their children by ensuring that everyone had an opportunity to take instrumental music lessons. In 1978, Lucy’s second oldest son, Paul B. Saunders was inspired to form a family singing group called The Saunders Family. Lucy supported her children as they ministered through various gospel venues.
On November 18, 2015, Lucy was the recipient of the “2015 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll” through the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. The “Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll” program was established in 2002 to celebrate the progress being made throughout the school district. The program spotlights successful alumni to encourage and inspire today’s students. In April 2016, Lucy was recognized at Donnelly College’s Alumni Hall of Fame ceremony.
“Sister Lucy”, as many of the church members called her, continued to faithfully serve the Lord and pray for family, friends, and anyone who requested prayer until one week prior to the Lord calling her home to be with Him.
Lucy will be lovingly remembered by her seven sons, Paul B. Saunders (Alicia) of Kansas City, KS; Ricardo S. Saunders (Kathleen) of Olathe, KS; Howard S. Saunders of Kansas City, KS; Maurice E. Saunders (Karen) of Kansas City, KS; Jewell H. Saunders (Renee) of Conroe, TX; Cedric R. Saunders (Bonnie) of Kansas City, KS; and Buell J. Saunders (Darlene) of Kansas City, KS; three daughters, Sylvia Ann Thompson and Kathleen A. Easterwood (Rodney) of Kansas City, Kansas; and Valorie A. Thompson (Keith) of Lee’s Summit, Missouri; daughter-in-law, Mamie Saunders (widow of son, David A. Saunders) of Nashville, TN; three sisters-in-law, Bertha Valorie Allen of Kansas City, MO; Mary Saunders of Detroit, Michigan; and Dorothy Saunders of Philadelphia, PA; one brother-in-law, Arnold Saunders of Kansas City, Kansas; forty grandchildren, fifty-nine great grandchildren, and three great-great grandchildren; the Bartee family, Clemons family, and Saunders family, a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, relatives and friends; three godchildren Ivan Smith II of Las Vegas, NV, Brian Smith of Edison, NJ and Alysia Smith Knight of Nashville, TN.
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