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    Pinellas teacher, union leader dies

    By GREG WILLIAMS
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 5, 2002

    CLEARWATER -- Don Anders, a teacher who helped organize and lead a strike in 1968, has died at 76. He taught at Mildred Helms Elementary School for 37 years.

    He died Friday (May 3, 2002) at Largo Medical Center after a heart attack, his wife said.

    He taught fifth- and sixth-graders at Mildred Helms in Largo and was one of the first male elementary school teachers in Pinellas County.

    In 1968, teachers were fed up with low salaries and burgeoning class sizes. In February of that year, many teachers around the state walked out of the classroom. In Pinellas, they stayed out for six weeks.

    In response, the Legislature outlawed future teacher strikes, but added a penny to the state sales tax to help fund schools.

    Mr. Anders, who helped organize the walkout, rose to the presidency of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association in 1971. He devoted mornings to his students and afternoons to the union. But he abandoned the last year of his presidency to return to teaching full time.

    "Don was one of the real pioneers of the teacher union movement," said Jade Moore, PCTA's executive director. "He was always a guy I went to to make sure the ship was on the right course because he really loved kids and loved teaching."

    Mr. Anders met his wife, Mary Alice, at Mildred Helms. She still teaches there.

    Mr. Anders retired in 1990 but remained active in the union and belonged to Pinellas Education Employees -- Retired.

    He also is survived by a daughter, Ellen Branham, Crossville, Tenn.; a son, Alan, Otway, Ohio; and three grandchildren.

    A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday at St. John's Episcopal Church in Clearwater. A reception will follow.

    Donations can be made in his name to the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity.

    Abbey Parklawn Funeral Home, Dunedin, is in charge of funeral arrangements.

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