Menekaunee Old Timer's Picnic

EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

Menekaunee cheer tradition From left; Sandy Olson, Jean Fischer Rizzo, Irene Litts Price, Sharon Powilaites, Judy Fischer Uecke, Judy Brix Wiliams, and Joan Fifarek, all from Marinette, cheer at the start of the Old Timer's Picnic Satureday at Red Arrow Park in Marinette.

MARINETTE — The City of Marinette — the Menekaunee area to be specific — lost one of its longtime advocates last week.

Sandra A. Saunier, a Ward 1 alderperson for 26 years (1987 to 2013), died July 24 at Rennes Health & Rehab Center West in Peshtigo. She was 81.

Saunier and her husband, Robert, owned and operated the Marine House Bar and Grill in Menekaunee for many years. He preceded her in death in 2007.

In remembering Saunier, city officials unanimously point to her tireless work for the people in her Ward 1 district of Menekaunee.

“I think she’s been a fixture in city government,” Mayor Steve Gensiot said. “She certainly was very interested in the benefits of the city, particularly Menekaunee and trying to bring improvements there. She was a very good person who genuinely cared for Menekaunee and the community as a whole.”

Saunier, the former Sandy Olson and the youngest girl in a family of 14 siblings, grew up in Menekaunee.

Dorothy Kowalski, the current city council president, served with Saunier on the council during Saunier’s last term. “She really worked hard while she was on the council and worked to improve the Menekaunee area,” she said, adding that Saunier was helpful to those who were new to the council, like herself.

Doug Oitzinger, a current alderman who had two stints as mayor with Saunier on the council, described her as someone who was normally quiet at meetings, but very knowledgeable on city issues.

“She often did not lead in the discussions on the council,” he said. “She was not a public speaker. So she showed her wishes based on how she voted.”

Oitzinger said Saunier often came into his office with issues of concern.

“She was not someone who would necessarily grab the floor on the council or even the committee meeting to grab hold of an issue,” he said. “She tended to do that more privately.”

LIke others, Oitzinger pointed to her allegiance to Ward 1.

“Sandy always had a very strong identity with Menekaunee, that was her overriding concern and her representation on the city council,” he said.

Oitzinger, who said he enjoyed many fish fries at the Marine House, explained that watching Saunier run the kitchen there gave him an idea of her strong work ethic.

He said mayors from throughout the state got to experience Saunier’s cooking when the city hosted a meeting of the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities (now a sub group of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities).

He said a gathering for all the mayors and city administrators was set up in the pavilion at Red Arrow Park the night before the meeting. Saunier was hired to cater the event.

“The mayors from around the state were so impressed with Red Arrow Park, the pavilion and the food,”

Oitzinger recalled. “I told them, ‘Oh by the way, our cook happens to be the alderperson from this district.’ They were pretty impressed.”

Current Ward 1 Alderman Ken Keller defeated Saunier by five votes in April of 2013. That ended Saunier’s tenure on the council, but it didn’t stop her commitment to city causes.

“She served a long time and I think everybody was grateful for that,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for her.”

Keller said Saunier helped lead many projects in Menekaunee. Some include improvements to Menekaunee Heritage Park (formerly Whiskey Park), improvements to Red Arrow Park and the renovation of the Menekaunee Harbor and Marina. She also was an integral park of the Menekaunee Oldtimers Picnic for more than a decade.

In an EagleHerald article following her loss to Keller in 2013, Saunier said she was proud of all the improvements to Menekaunee and the positive direction of the city.

“I’m just so happy that things are falling into place and finally happening,” she said at the time. “We’re going to put Marinette on the map and show that things really can happen here.”

And Saunier had input in many of those “things that are happening here.”