RALEIGH — Viola Saunders, 81, died at Rex Hospital on Wednesday, May 23, 2007 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Viola was the beloved mother of JoJo Saunders of Zebulon, N.C. and Linda (Kursat) Sarigol of Greenbelt, Md., much adored grandmother of Banu and Leyla Sarigol and Jace Saunders. She had numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Mrs. Saunders was predeceased by her husband of 56 years J.C. “Red” Saunders, her father James, mother Viola, sister Mildred and brother James.
Viola was known to most of her friends as Vi and was affectionately called “Pout” by her mom, dad, sister, brother and cousins. Pout was full of life and spunk from the earliest days and the “I can and will do it” spark stayed with her through all the years that followed. It served her well in the long battle during her illness, inspiring all around.
One of her own great inspirations was music. It fueled her soul. It gave her happiness during the good times, solace during the hard times. JoJo and Linda remember the beautiful music that would come out of the piano when she played at night. Her children and grandchildren inherited that love and gift, a gift that was passed to her from generations of musicians on her mother’s side. Whenever visits were made, somebody was always playing something - often together to the delight of all around. She was the organist for Athens Drive Baptist Church for many years and the choral director as well. Her fame spread throughout the Baptist churches in her community and she was always the one they called when they needed help. She even started a small choral group at her work for the N.C. State Personnel Office in Raleigh. They would practice and perform during their lunch hour - again, to the delight of all around. The cabinets and shelves in her home were overflowing with music books for piano and organ and choral arrangements for all sizes of groups. Music was her addiction.
Her work with the State was also dear to her heart. She worked long, dedicated hours - especially when it was a pay week. She wanted to make sure that all those State workers got their paychecks - on time. She understood herself how important that was. Music crept into the office as well - she’d sing to the filing cabinets and before she left after 20 years in the late ‘80s, Vi had others doing the same thing.
Viola was keen on visiting her extended family and always carried a tape recorder or video camera to collect oral histories and special family moments. She took photography classes and incorporated her skills there into her musical concerts. Viola Saunders and her close friend Judy Pitts performed together on the organ and piano, concerts eagerly anticipated and attended by their fans.
She was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, Washington Lodge No. 675 and was often called to grace the dinners and parties of the Masonic Hiram Lodge No. 40 in Raleigh with her musical talents. Music always found a way to travel with her, no matter where she went. Her special talent and joy in sharing it will forever stay with her family and those who knew her.
Her family would like to extend appreciation and special thanks to Dr. Timothy Finnegan of the UNC Hospital oncology group for his knowledge, compassion and active listening; also to Viola’s grand-niece Dr. Elizabeth Skinner, formerly of the UNC Hospital, for her advice and guiding hand during those last difficult years. In addition, love, affection and thanks come from the family and Viola to all her special friends who stood by her - especially her caregiver Jean Carpenter.
The family will receive friends at Brown-Wynne Funeral Home – 300 St. Mary’s Street (sister-firm of Mitchell Funeral Home) on Friday, May 25, from 7-9 PM and at Athens Drive Baptist Church Fellowship Hall (1601 Athens Drive, Raleigh) on Saturday afternoon from 12-2 PM. The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 26, at the church, with interment to follow at Raleigh Memorial Park, 7501 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh.
Flowers will be accepted or memorial contributions in Viola’s honor may be made to the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, CB #7295, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7295.
Arrangements with Mitchell Funeral Home at Raleigh Memorial Park.