Darlene Jones, 79, artist and active community volunteer

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Darlene Nola (Peterson) Jones, 79, died at her home in Decorah, Iowa, in the company of family members on Nov. 19, 2013, after a long and valiant fight with cancer.

She was born on Aug. 25, 1934 in the same bedroom of the farmhouse where her eight older siblings were born, in rural Blooming Prairie, Minn., to Ormanzo and Mabel (Thompson) Peterson.

She attended a one-room country school for eight years, and graduated from Blooming Prairie High School in 1952, then attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, graduating with a B.A. in elementary education in 1955. While at Luther she took art courses from Orville Running, 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, which continued to grow throughout her life.

Her teaching career began in Midland, Mich., in 1955. On Dec. 27 of that year, she married Bob Jones, and they made their home in Midland for two years, before moving to Ann Arbor, Mich., where she helped support her husband by teaching in the Ann Arbor schools while he attended law school. In February 1960, they moved to Chicago, 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-River Forest (for which she chaired a benefit held in Frank Lloyd Wright's Winslow house, Wright's 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 throughout the Christian liturgical year.

A member of the River Forest Tennis Club, she designed and made outrageous costumes that she wore in the club's traditional amateur shows.

She and Bob moved to Decorah in 2008, to a home she designed and dearly loved, and resided there until her death.

She was exuberant and filled with a zest for life. An artist, 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.

Darlene Jones is survived by her husband, Bob, a former River Forest village president; her children, Nancy Jones (Michael Hovland), Martha (Carl) Hunt, Eda Johnson, Wendy (Larry) Rice, and Hugh (Cathy) Jones; her eight grandchildren, Daniel Hunt, Katherine Hunt Yahvah, Sven Hovland, Bjorn Hovland, Lise Rice, Lora Rice, James Jones, and Marlene Jones; and two great-grandchildren, Kaitlyn and James Fry; her siblings, Berniece Hines and Joyce Trom, and Francis Peterson.

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.

The 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.

Visitation took place at her home in Decorah on Nov. 24. A memorial service was held at First Lutheran Church in Decorah on Nov. 25. The funeral service was held at Red Oak Grove Lutheran Church in Blooming Prairie, Minn., on Nov. 26, followed by interment in the church cemetery.

Pallbearers were her nephews, Marvin, Galen and Roger Peterson, Dean and Nolan Christianson, and Timothy Trom.

In lieu of flowers, gifts in her memory are suggested to the Hiram Peterson Scholarship Endowment, Luther College, Decorah, IA 52101; First Lutheran Church of Decorah, 604 W. Broadway, Decorah, IA 52101; or Red Oak Grove Lutheran Church, 30456 Mower Freeborn Rd., Austin, MN 55912.

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