Retired Fox C-6 administrator Ron Sauer understood that to get respect, one must give respect – including to students.
“He called them Mister or Miss instead of by their first names,” said his wife of 52 years, Lynda Sauer. “They had to toe the line, but he gave them respect.”
Aside from his family, Mr. Sauer considered his educational career the crowning achievement of his life, Lynda said.
“His love was working with students,” she said.
Mr. Sauer died June 1 at age 74 after a years-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
He dedicated 31 years to Fox High School, as a teacher, coach, athletic director and principal.
Much of his career came during a time of tremendous growth for the Fox School District.
“Ron was very involved in the passage of the tax levy and bond issues that ultimately allowed us to build the second high school,” former Fox Superintendent Jim Chellew said. “Ron was a go-getter, no question about it. If he had a vision, he had the ability to act on it and see it to fruition. Had it not been for his efforts, we might not have had the success we had.”
Mr. Sauer grew up in Webster Groves and graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in education.
“We met in college our junior year,” Lynda said. “His fraternity and my sorority were working together on a homecoming float.”
The Sauers were married in 1966, and both took teaching jobs at Fox.
“I taught first grade, and he taught history and social studies at the high school,” she said. “He taught one year and then got drafted.”
Mr. Sauer served two years in the U.S. Army, one of those in Vietnam. When he returned, he taught another year before earning a master’s degree in administration from the University of Missouri in St. Louis.
“As soon as he got that, he was hired as athletic director,” Lynda said. “Later he was named assistant principal, then head principal.”
The Sauers’ two daughters were born in 1970 and 1971.
Mr. Sauer had been a wrestler in high school, and he decided to start a program at Fox.
“He got permission from Mr. Rickman, and he did it on his own time with no pay for the first two years,” Lynda said. “The first mats they used were horsehair mats, up in the top of the gym. They were in singlets they just kind of put together because they didn’t have uniforms. But he thoroughly enjoyed it.”
The fledgling team wrestled only four matches in the first two years, but before long the program took off. The Ron Sauer Wrestling Tournament is still going strong after 45 years, and Mr. Sauer was named to the Fox High School Hall of Fame in 2007.
“Fox has enjoyed one of the most successful programs in the state,” Chellew said. “Seckman, especially, has been very competitive, and Ron was the one who got it off the ground.”
Mr. Sauer dealt with the wrestlers just like he did with other students: with tough love.
“They had to make their grades, and they couldn’t be in trouble elsewhere,” Lynda said. “But he was always there for whatever they really needed. Many former wrestlers came to the visitation, and they all had a story to tell.”
Lynda said her husband was a “wonderful dad.”
“He had so much patience with them,” she said. “He taught them to ride bikes, play chess. He was the pitcher and umpire in all the kickball games in our backyard.”
He also loved to play golf.
“He played with Jerry O’Connor, Jim Howell, David Butler at courses all over the place,” Lynda said. “I think they solved a lot of problems while they played golf.”
After Lynda and her husband retired from Fox in 1997, the two spent some time traveling the country.
They were active members of St. Mark United Church of Christ in Arnold, and participated in the OASIS program that matches older adults with children to help with reading and math.
In 2000, the Sauers moved to Columbia, Ill., to help Lynda’s mother, now 98.
“We took over the care of her house and lawn,” she said. “We bought an 8-acre property with a lake. After that, we didn’t travel much any more; taking care of things was our primary job.”
Mr. Sauer went five days a week to the local YMCA.
“He spent 45-60 minutes on the elliptical every day,” Lynda said. “He did that up until the time when the Alzheimer’s kind of took over.”
Lynda said symptoms began nearly a decade ago, but it was only in the past couple of years things grew more serious.
Swallowing difficulties would eventually lead to pneumonia.
“It’s just an awful disease,” Lynda said.
Chellew said Mr. Sauer’s legacy is the incredible progress the Fox district made during a challenging time of rapid growth.
“Ron did a great job of providing good leadership for the school,” Chellew said. “He was a very bright, intellectual kind of guy, but he had a very down-to-earth way of looking at things. Anybody could talk to Ron and it was like talking to a brother.
“If it weren’t for people like Ron – who did the best they could with what we had to work with – we wouldn’t have all we have now.”
“Life Story,” posted Saturdays on Leader Publications’ website, focuses on one individual’s impact on his or her community.