The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Clifford Roy Saari


September 30, 2017

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Clifford Roy Saari died Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, at Woodside Lutheran Home with his family at his side. He was 95 years old. Cliff was born June 6, 1922, in Ironwood, Mich., to the late John A. Saari and Pearl (Ronn) Saari.

He grew up on the family farm in Kimball Township, about 10 miles west of Hurley. He attended grade school in a one-room school house near the farm. He started school at 4 years old and graduated from Hurley High School at the age of 17 in 1939. A year later, in 1940, he enrolled at Superior State Teachers College on a football scholarship.

When World War II started, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and was called up in 1943. Cliff was ordered to Texas and did the majority of his training there.

A year later, he was sent to the East Coast and then to Europe, traveling there on the Queen Mary. He was assigned to the 362nd Fighter Group and 378th Fighter Squadron of the Ninth Air Force located in France. He flew 80 missions in a P-47 fighter-bomber. His fighter group supported Gen. George Patton in France and Germany, especially during the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded 18 Oak Leaf Clusters for his efforts. At the end of the war in Europe, he was ordered to report to the war in the Pacific. That war ended before he was reassigned.

While on leave, Cliff married Doris E. Barto in 1944. After the war, he returned to Superior State and received his degree in 1947 with honors. Cliff started his teaching career in Wittenberg, at Wittenberg High School, teaching algebra, geometry, chemistry, physics, geography and girls physical education. He started the first football team at the school. To this day, those players call him "Doc" because he spent a lot of time patching up his players.

After seven years in Wittenberg, Cliff took a teaching job in Westby, teaching algebra and geometry. He was the assistant football coach and head baseball coach, going undefeated in baseball for two years. During the time in Westby, Cliff and Doris bought property on Squirrel Lake, near Minocqua. They built two cabins and a garage on the property. The family spent many relaxing summers there.

In 1956, Cliff was awarded a National Science Foundation scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his master's degree in math in 1957.

Cliff had multiple job offers and chose Green Bay West High School. The family moved to Green Bay during late summer of 1957. Cliff taught algebra, geometry and chemistry, and coached the JV football team. After several years, he taught math full-time. He moved from coaching the JV team to the varsity with John Biolo Sr. When Cliff became chairman of the math department, he quit coaching. He then taught calculus, probability and statistics. He was also co-chairman for math for the Green Bay School District. He furthered his education when he was awarded two National Science Foundation scholarships for summer school sessions at Oberlin College and one at Texas Tech University.

In 1970, Cliff became vice principal at West High School. He served in that capacity until his retirement in 1984. He had many stories of encounters with students during this time.

Doris died in 1999. In 2002, Cliff married Iris (Erspamer) Nelson, whom he had known at Hurley High School. They were together until 2012, when Iris passed away.

During his career and in retirement, Cliff was involved with many activities. During the winters he was at Fisk and Perkins parks supervising the skating rinks, warming houses, and officiating pick-up hockey games at those locations. He was a member of the 362nd Fighter Group and went to many reunions around the country. He and Doris hosted a reunion in Green Bay in 1982. In the summer of 1985, Cliff renewed his pilot's license. He flew out of local airports until he was 85. Members of the family flew with him many times. Cliff was active in the American Legion Sullivan-Wallen Post 11, EAA local chapter, the WW II Memorial, National Parks Conservation Association, Wisconsin Alumni Association, and the Wounded Veterans Fund. For many years, he was a ticket taker at Packers' games and occasionally guarded the visiting team's locker room.

Cliff was also an avid fly fisherman and made the mandatory opening day trek to the streams. He enjoyed deer hunting, especially at the family cabin up north.

Cliff is survived by his son, Curtis (Y. Karen) Saari; daughter, Diane (Richard) Kekstas; grandsons, Brett (Jessica) Saari, Paul (Melinda) Kekstas, John Kekstas, Nicholas (partner Danielle) Saari and Aaron Saari; great-grandchildren, Maximillian Kekstas, Eli Kekstas, Clifford Saari, Ryan Saari, Alexandra Saari, Hayden Saari and Samuel Saari; sister, LaVerne (Leonard) Bartolutti; sister-in-law, Edith; and many loving nieces and nephews.

Cliff was preceded in death by his parents, John and Pearl; his older brother, Eugene (Edith); his youngest brother, Russell (June); his youngest sister, Sharily; Doris; Iris; infant daughter, Carol; and son, Joel.

Visitation will be on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, at Lyndahl Funeral Home, 1350 Lombardi Ave., Green Bay, from 4 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Visitation will continue Tuesday, Oct. 3, at Calvary Lutheran Church, 1301 South Ridge Road, from 10 a.m. until the time of funeral service at 11 a.m., with Rev. Earl Vorpagel III officiating. Burial will be in Fort Howard Memorial Park. Expressions of sympathy, memories and photos of Cliff may be shared with his family on his tribute page at

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made out to Wounded Veterans Fund in memory of Cliff.

Cliff's family would like to thank the staff and nurses at Woodside Nursing Home and the nurses of Optima for their excellent care of Cliff throughout his stay.


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