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Longtime local educator Sara Heberle, 93, leaves legacy of volunteerism

Former Lodi Unified School District trustee remembered for her wit, kindness

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Sara Heberle

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013 3:06 pm

Known for her quick wit and history with Lodi Unified School District, former school board member and Lodi resident Sara Heberle has died. She was 93.

The longtime Woodbridge Middle School teacher, who passed away Friday, was also a community volunteer who was bestowed numerous awards for her time and dedication to Lodi, having touched hundreds of lives. She is the mother of current Lodi Unified board member Ron Heberle.

She was born in North Dakota and was married to her late husband, Eddie, for more than 40 years.

Heberle may have been best known for teaching middle school at Woodbridge Middle School, but she began there in 1956 as a kindergarten teacher.

She was one of Ann Areida’s favorite teachers and a special friend of her family as she grew up and had a family of her own.

“I enjoyed seeing her often as she played cards in the Senior Center, where she always had time to give me a quick hug and that beautiful smile,” said Areida, retired Senior Services director at Hutchins Street Square. “What a wonderful, funny and kind woman she was.”

Retired teacher Carol Von Berg is also a former student, and had Heberle as a teacher in both kindergarten and seventh grade.

“She was definitely an inspiration to me. She’s one reason I became a teacher,” said Von Berg, who has known Heberle her entire life. “I always saw her as caring. She was very loving, yet you knew you needed to do what she said you were supposed to.”

As a kindergartner, Von Berg said she remembers adoring her teacher so much she cried when Heberle took a small fall off a chair.

She also recalls creating a time capsule in the seventh grade, which Heberle saved and sent to Von Berg’s parents upon her high school graduation.

In adulthood, Von Berg said Heberle never forgot her name and always asked about her family.

“She always had a smile on her face,” she said.

Former Lodi Unified trustee Ken Davis also remembered Heberle’s kindness. When he was first elected to the board in 1992, she was his mentor. Davis went on to serve another 18-plus years. Heberle served on the board for two four-year terms, from 1986 to 1994.

“She spent a lot of time with me, bringing me up to speed on what was important,” Davis said. “She went out of her way to make me feel comfortable on the board. She will be missed in that community.”

Retired Hutchins Street Square director Charlene Lange worked alongside Heberle on the city’s former annual Field and Fair Day event for two decades.

“She was one of our most fabulous volunteers,” Lange said. “She was everybody’s eighth-grade teacher at Woodbridge, so she already knew everybody. She was the most ardent community supporter out there.”

Lange remembers year after year how Heberle anguished over choosing the right size of custom T-shirt for the event. She would choose one, then bring it back. This happened several times annually, so Lange said she finally laid all of them out one year, “a la a Macy’s dressing room,” and told Heberle to try them all on until she found the right fit.

“It really became a joke with us,” Lange said.

Areida, too, recalls working with Heberle at many of Hutchins Street Square’s fundraisers. “(She) was our favorite volunteer, handing out flags at Celebrate America each year,” she said of the annual Fourth of July event.

Davis said that when she served on the school board, Heberle always stood her ground, especially about things she believed in.

“When she dug in her heels, she was passionate,” he said. “If she had something to say, she did not bite her tongue.”

In the early 1990s, the big issue on the school board was how quickly North Stockton was growing and whether the district could keep up with building schools, according to Davis.

“(Heberle) always wanted Lodi to keep that family feel,” he said. “Even in retirement, she contributed a lot to make Lodi Unified the district it is with her history and contacts, as well as her connection with the staff. She had a special place in that district.

”Following retirement, Heberle founded a Lodi Unified program that put grandparents in classrooms where they read to students. She volunteered until just four years ago.

She also remained active in her church, St. John’s Episcopal.

Heberle served on the city’s first Arts Commission and helped create the All Veterans Plaza in the early 2000s.

For her continued commitment to the community she called home for more than 50 years, she garnered a lot of recognition, including the Lodi Grape and Wine Festival’s Blue Ribbon Award for her volunteerism while serving as the manager of the art exhibition building.

In 1997, she received the Golden Apple Award, which is presented annually to one outstanding teacher by the San Joaquin County California Teachers’ Association Coordinating Council.

She was also chosen as the Lodi Citizen of the Year for 2003, and Lodi Business and Professional Women named her the Woman of the Year in 2004.

Heberle is survived by two sons and a daughter, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Memorial services will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1055 S. Lower Sacramento Road, in Lodi. A celebration of her life will follow.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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