Florence May (Saunders) Madison, 101, wife of Albert Henry Madison, died September 21, 2019. She was born at home on Sunnyacres Farm on August 31, 1918 and was the daughter of Elizabeth (Opie) and Rudolph Saunders. She was a direct descendant of Tobias Saunders and Robert Burdick, two of the original incorporators of the Town of Westerly in 1669.
Educated in a two-room school in Dunn’s Corners, she graduated at age 15 from Westerly High School. She was particularly proud of being the girls’ winner of the RI State Chemistry Contest at age 14. An Ashaway benefactor made it financially possible for her to attend and graduate from Rhode Island College of Education in 1938 with a Bachelor of Education, certifying her to teach all subjects K-12.
Employed first as the school liaison with the Rhode Island Humane Society and then as a teacher at the one-room Louttit School in West Greenwich and then at Ashaway School, she later taught mathematics at Babcock Junior High School, retiring in 1978.
She was a founding member of the Dunn’s Corners Community Church, established when World War II gas rationing made it challenging to get into town for church. The family provided a home for the first minister, Joe Peacock, who remained a treasured lifelong friend. Church-related visitors often came for Sunday dinner and she introduced her children to guests from every continent except Antarctica. She held many positions ranging from organist to church school superintendent, but her chief role was as confidante to many ministers. She could always be trusted to honor confidentiality, be a good listener, and inspire others to believe in themselves.
After she retired, she conceived the idea of the Westerly Adult Day Care Center to meet the needs of caregivers. She served as President of the Board after its founding and always felt that this was one of her major contributions.
She was also one of the founders of the Teen Center and served as President. When she saw a need for some kind of action, she took it and was humbled by being awarded the B’nai B’rith Brotherhood Award for community service in 1981.
She was a voracious reader of all genres and her flower gardens reflected her careful planning on cold winter days. Her treasured car, a 1973 Oldsmobile, was her favorite color—yellow. She loved playing scrabble with friends and canasta with her family until her hands grew too weak to hold the cards. Her address book reflected the breadth and depth of friendships nurtured over decades. Most of all, she was incredibly generous with her time, her talents, her love and her resources.
She married the love-of-her life Bert Madison on October 4, 1940, having met him at Sunday School when she was a young girl. He built their home on North Stuart Street where she lived until making her home once again at Sunnyacres with her daughter Ellen in 2003. Bert, whom she always credited as being “the wind beneath her wings,” predeceased her in 1987. She was also predeceased by her older sister Eloise.
Her children, Ellen Madison (Walt Dembo), Robert Madison (Karen) and Sarah Madison (Mark Phillips) absorbed her love of learning and all followed her into the field of education. She also leaves a grandson, Zachary Smith (Allison van der Velden).
At her request, there will be a private burial and no calling hours. A memorial service will be held at Dunn’s Corners Community Church, Presbyterian on Sunday, September 29 at 1 pm. In lieu of flowers, it is her request that donations be made to the Westerly Library, 44 Broad Street to acknowledge the pleasure that being able to borrow books brought her.
Buckler-Johnston Funeral Home is being entrusted with Florence Madison’s services. For online condolences please visit www.buckler-johnston.com
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