Darlene Nola (Peterson) Jones, 79, died at her home in Decorah, in the company of family members, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, after a long and valiant fight with cancer. Visitation is at her home, 403 Ohio Street in Decorah, from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24. It will continue Monday, Nov. 25, at 10 a.m., one hour before the service, at First Lutheran Church, 604 W. Broadway, in Decorah. A memorial service is at First Lutheran Church, at 11 a.m. Monday, with Pastor Paul H. Christenson officiating. Visitation continues Tuesday, Nov. 26, at 10 a.m., one hour before the service, at Red Oak Grove Lutheran Church, 30456 Mower Freeborn Road, rural Blooming Prairie, Minn. Her funeral service is at Red Oak Grove Lutheran Church at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26, with her niece, Pastor Laurie Jeddeloh, officiating. Interment in the church cemetery will follow. Pallbearers are six of her nephews: Marvin, Galen and Roger Peterson, Dean and Nolan Christianson and Timothy Trom.
Darlene was born Aug. 25, 1934, in the same bedroom of the farmhouse where her eight older siblings had also been born, in rural Blooming Prairie, Minn. Her parents were Ormanzo Peterson and Mabel (Thompson) Peterson. She attended a one-room country school for eight years, and graduated from Blooming Prairie High School in 1952. She attended Luther College in Decorah, graduating with a B.A. in elementary education in 1955. While at Luther she also took art courses from Orville Running. That was the beginning of a lifetime filled with creativity in the visual arts, among which sculpture was a favorite. Her years at Luther also enhanced her faith in God, a faith which continued to grow throughout her life. She began her teaching career in Midland, Mich. in 1955. She married Robert B. (Bob) Jones Dec. 27 of that same year. They made their home in Midland for two years, and then moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., where she helped support her husband by teaching in the Ann Arbor schools while he attended law school. They moved to Chicago in Feb. 1960, and lived there or in suburban River Forest for 48 years. In 1963, she and Bob adopted his sister's five children-Nancy, Martha, Eda, Wendy and Hugh, then 15, 11, 10, 7 and 4 years old, respectively-after the deaths of their birth parents. Darlene was 29 years old at the time. She raised them as if they were her own, and saw all of them graduate from college and move on to professional careers. Her life was filled with volunteer work. She was a leader in or founder of dozens of artistic and charitable organizations. Among them are The Art Institute of Chicago, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (for which she chaired its Amicus Certus award dinner), Lutheran World Relief of Chicago, Infant Welfare Association of Oak Park and River Forest (for which she chaired a benefit held in Frank Lloyd Wright's Winslow House, his first independent commission in 1893). Also prominent were her contributions to United Lutheran Church of Oak Park, including dozens of 10-foot banners that she designed and painted to commemorate events of the Christian liturgical year. She was a member of the River Forest Tennis Club, where she designed and made outrageous costumes which she wore in the Club's traditional amateur shows. She moved with Bob to Decorah in 2008, to a home that she designed and dearly loved. She resided there until her death.
Darlene is survived by her husband, Bob, and by their children and spouses: Nancy Jones and Michael Hovland of Iowa City; Martha and Carl Hunt of Moscow, Idaho; Eda Johnson of Bloomington, Minn.; Wendy and Larry Rice of Hillsboro, N.H.; and Hugh and Cathy Jones of Madison, Wis. She is also survived by eight grandchildren: Daniel Hunt of Seattle, Wash.; Katherine Hunt Yahvah of Vancouver, Wash.; Sven Hovland of Watertown, S.D.; Bjorn Hovland of Palo Alto, Calif.; Lise Rice of Hillsboro, N.H. Lora Rice of Anderson, Ind.; James Jones of Fort Campbell, Ky.; and Marlene Jones of Madison, Wis.; and two great-grandchildren, Kaitlyn and James Fry, of Hillsboro, N.H. Also surviving her are her siblings Berniece Hines and Joyce Trom of Blooming Prairie, Minn., and Francis Peterson of Spooner, Wis.
Preceding her in death were her parents; her siblings Mildred Christianson, Marion Peterson, Rayma Christianson, Hiram Peterson and Richard Peterson; and her son-in-law, Kevin Johnson.
Darlene was exuberant and filled with a zest for life. She was an artist, and she brought beauty to every corner of the world she touched. Her clothing and her decorating schemes were vibrantly colorful, and her ever-present headbands set her apart. Her faith was strong, and her courage, strength and selflessness were demonstrated by her willingness to take on five children. She lived a full and rewarding life. God bless her and her memory.
Darlene's family would like to thank the many people, near and far, who blessed her with laughter, prayers, gentle notes, warm wishes, happy memories, musical serenades and good food in her final weeks. Special thanks go to her caregivers from Winneshiek Medical Center Hospice, and to Cheryl Fleshner, who provided daily help and cheer.
In lieu of flowers, gifts in her memory are suggested to the Hiram Peterson Scholarship Endowment, Luther College, 700 College Drive, Decorah, IA 52101; First Lutheran Church, 604 W. Broadway, Decorah, IA 52101; or Red Oak Grove Lutheran Church, 30456 Mower Freeborn Road, Austin, MN 55912. Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah and Worlein Funeral Home in Blooming Prairie are serving the family. Online condolences may be made at fjelstul.com.