Gianna Homes Resident: Darlene’s Story of Faith
This is Darlene’s Story:
Darlene Joan Fretter was born in 1932 in Minneapolis, MN. Although her parents were very poor they shared their wealthy hearts with their two daughters, and much of their extended family…eight people living together in a tiny house on Hiawatha Ave. “It never felt crowded” Darlene would say, as she shared stories of her childhood with her daughters and grandchildren. “It was fun!”
As a child she lived as witness to selfless service wholly integrated into her home. Sharing, giving and receiving among family. In a time of great need and much suffering, she was never anything less than grateful for what she had. She carried this generosity of loving kindness forward into her adult years, selflessly sharing with all. Her devotion to God and sharing love and light served as inspiration and security for her entire family.
Interestingly, Darlene’s parents had never spoken of God or Jesus or The Holy Bible, but yet they never discouraged Darlene, who at age eight felt a call to the church and would walk two blocks every Sunday morning to attend worship services by herself.
By the time she was 14, Darlene was walking 4 blocks to catch a streetcar that would take her to yet another church where she sang in the choir and attended confirmation classes. She would tell you today, if she could, that the Holy Spirit was moving her.
During her school years, Darlene was continually recognized by her peers, teachers and school administrators as a leader in her community receiving honors and rewards. In 1950 when most young women were marrying and settling down to the business of raising a family, Darlene felt the nudge of spirit leading her in a different direction.
“I’ve always felt God working in my life and showing me the way.” She would explain. And so, she chose to enroll in the University of Minnesota to pursue a college degree. The first in the family to do so. Courageously deviating from the cultural story for women of her era, Darlene mastered the rigor of a University education while working part-time at Sears. She graduated in 1954 with a degree in teaching.
“A teacher is a second mother, there to help the students both emotionally and socially. When a child feels secure and happy with himself, he’s going to get along in the world just fine, she explained in a 1975 interview about teaching.
She was highly respected by her professional peers and the community, and highly requested as the teacher of choice by the parents of incoming first graders. But she has always been humble, graciously giving credit for every accomplishment to God.
Darlene dedicated her life to ceaselessly giving of herself in order to help others. Always reaching out to family, friends, neighbors, or mere acquaintances with cheerful words of encouragement, inspiration and support. If ever you were feeling down, Darlene was there with an open heart, a listening ear and an earnest prayer.
In 1981, while working through her own grief and loss after divorce, Darlene’s story brought her to help those with similar experiences would bring healing to herself and others. And so, for many years she facilitated Rainbows for God’s Children, a program designed to help children overcome the grief of losing a parent either through death or divorce. As well as, Beginning Experiences, a program designed to help adults resolve the pain and grief of divorce or the death of a loved one. Her list of volunteer endeavors was indeed endless. She tirelessly volunteered for the American Red Cross, The Summit Center, Faith In Action, Vine, the Democratic party, and her church.
But her greatest joy has always been her family, and with smiles, and hugs, Darlene embraced and celebrated each grandchild, demonstrating unconditional love while connecting deeply with each blessed child. Her home was a playground of games, art projects, activity centers and homemade treats. Her unwavering faith and open heart continues to inspire all those who know her.
Darlene is currently a full time resident of Gianna Homes, Gladys’ Place. The one-on-one care staff see her as a warm spirit with a beautiful smile. Gianna Homes is thankful for the opportunity to care for such a spiritual and blessed woman.