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Miss Sadie' an unconventional woman with a passion for life

By By Faye Edwards / special to The Star
April 30, 2002
Sadie Zelle Kendall Knight, 95, died on April 28, 2002, at Beverly HealthCare-Broadmoor. Memorial services will be at 3 p.m. on Wednesday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Meridian.
Mrs. Knight was a native of Meridian and a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. In 1926 she graduated cum laude from Randolph-Macon Women's College in Lynchburg, Va, and soon after married Hughes Knight of Lynchburg.
She was preceded in death by her father, Gus C. Kendall; her mother, Zelle Watts Kendall; her brother Sam Kendall; and her husband, Hughes Knight.
She is survived by a cousin, Meredith Dregni of St. Paul, Minn.; a niece by marriage, Susan Knight Spenser of Smithfield, Va.; a cousin by marriage, Mary Louise Shields of Natchez; and numerous friends and alumni of Kendallwood.
Miss Sadie claimed, "I did not plan to be an unconventional teacher, with an unconventional school. I wanted to do it just right. How I got the off the beam (or on it, depending on one's point of view), was due to the animal world." She once said that a kitten on the shoulder was worth 10 anythings in a cage.
At Kendallwood there were goats with names like Henrietta and Jetty Belle. There were sheep dyed pink, purple and green, and banty roosters and ducks and dogs. There were ponies to ride on. And long after Kendallwood ceased to exist as a play school, Miss Sadie gave pony rides every Saturday at Highland Park.
For her purpose was to bring that "shine" to their eyes, to help children find life wonderful. "I want them to know how to open their eyes, ears, hearts and minds. I want them to form the habit of being happy. I want them to have an enthusiasm for life that includes themselves, other people, all creatures, all life."
Though the outward appearance of Kendallwood might have seemed slapdash and "ragged," as she herself admitted, Miss Sadie had a well thought-out philosophy of education.
She held the intense belief that children need time to be children, to be joyous and free. Children are not "clay to be molded, but living beings who want and need guidance." Although one alumnus commented that Kendallwood would make "prissy parents scream in anguish," Miss Sadie insisted that Kendallwood was "unregimented, but not undisciplined." Indeed, very little discipline was needed at happy Kendallwood.
Kendallwood was years ahead of its time, "like natural childbirth," Miss Sadie once commented. One of its innovations was the integration of ages. Even though the children were all preschoolers, there was a considerable age range. She felt that "children of different ages can enjoy each other as well as help each other." This arrangement "made things more difficult, but decidedly more interesting." It was, she felt, "using life itself as the curriculum."
Another innovation brought pleasure to both young and old in the community  her dangle dolls.
In the 1930's she attended an adult education class sponsored by the WPA. She learned how to make marionettes and fell in love with them. However, children could not easily manipulate the many strings of a marionette, so Miss Sadie "invented" the dangle doll, hinged at the knees, elbows and waist and with a wire attached at the head. Thus, the doll had the movement of a marionette, yet the ease of manipulation that even a child could manage.
Ever inventive, Miss Sadie experimented making dangle dolls out of wood, linoleum and clay. She worked with the late Dr. Carol Coley who taught elementary education at the Meridian branch of Mississippi State University, thus inspiring teachers and children throughout the Meridian area to create and perform their own dangle doll shows.
Many Kendallwood alumni are grateful for the happy childhood afforded them. One alumni wrote, "I know I will feel joyous vibrations of life that she embraced me with forever!" Indeed, all who knew Miss Sadie will echo this sentiment.