By Susanna Han-Sanzi
SARA JOSEPHINE MCGUIRE HAN was a native of Kentucky. She was born on September 7, 1924 to her parents Rosalie Cooper and Garret McGuire. She was the eldest of five children. Throughout her life, she was especially close to her brother Eugene.
Sara left Ashland to attend the University of Minnesota where she earned her BS and M. Ed. degrees. Following her graduation, she moved to California where she enjoyed serving as a camp counselor at Cuyamaca and Palomar Sixth Grade Camps. Many of her closest friends came from this very special time in her life. Later, she attended the University of Southern California and graduated with a Master’s of Library Science degree. She worked for several years at USC’s Doheny Library, and it was at USC where she met her husband, Alex Han.
Sara was first introduced to the Suzuki method in Denver, Colorado when she was searching for a violin teacher for her daughter, Cassandra. Sara met Sister Margeurite who was trained by John Kendall to be the first teacher in Colorado. In the early days of Suzuki, John Kendall implemented a program to train one teacher from each state. St. Margeurite proudly represented Colorado. The friendship between Sara and Sister Marguerite remained strong throughout their lives and she travelled on many occasions to teach at summer Suzuki camps that Sara organized in San Diego.
Sara was an integral part of forming the Suzuki Association of California – San Diego Branch, and she was honored with a Life Membership in 1986. She held meetings in her home, and for many years organized annual workshops where out-of-town teachers came to work with local students.
During many summers of the 1980’s, Sara brought violin teacher Ms. Toshiko Hasegawa and several of her accomplished students from Nagoya, Japan. Pony rides, art and dance classes were all part of these fun-filled summer programs. Some campers would stay the entire week, and these students usually practiced late in to the night with Ms. Hasegawa. On certain special occasions, Dr. Han would drive campers through the moonlit roads of Rancho Santa Fe in his pick-up truck to get ice-cream at Swenson’s Ice Cream Parlor.
Travelling for music was very important to Sara, and she took both of her daughters to Japan when they were 10 and 12 to meet Dr. Suzuki. Evelyn Hermann (author ofThe Man and His Philosophy) organized this trip, and it made a lasting impression. They also attended the World Convention in Munich the following year. Both Susanna and Cassandra studied for long-term periods of time at the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan. After Susanna’s graduation in 1987, they founded and developed Suzuki Heritage Center where Sara taught piano until her retirement in 2012.
Sara Jo was a light-hearted spirit who adored animals, ice cream and her favorite movie wasAuntie Mame. She loved belonging to St. Paul’s Cathedral, and when she could no longer attend services there, they came to worship with her at home. Sara Jo passed away peacefully at home on the morning of August 12, 2017, just a few moments after hearing from Cassandra (who resides in Italy with her husband, Lorenzo). Her son-in-law, David Sanzi, was playing Beethoven at the piano. Her grandchildren are Valentina and Luca Viti.