Darlene Fees was born Aug. 30, 1931, north of Faith in rural Perkins County, S.D., to Jennings Jackson and Lulia Mae (Teller) Thomas.
Darlene and her family lived in the communities of Faith, Bixby and Usta, S.D., during her grade school years. Her family moved to Park Rapids, Minn., for a year and then returned to Faith where she attended high school.
On Nov. 12, 1948, in Sturgis, S.D., Darlene was united in marriage to Byron H. Fees, who preceded her in death Jan. 15, 1979. Darlene and Byron began their lives together in Faith and then moved to Chamberlain, S.D., in 1957.
Darlene’s first job was at age 13 at the Saddle Rock Café in Faith where she was a waitress. After moving to Chamberlain and through the years, Darlene worked for Al’s Oasis and Charley’s Steak House as a waitress, Anderson’s, Midwest Supply and Raven’s Sewing in Reliance, S.D.
After graduating from Mitchell Technical Institute in 1981, Darlene worked at the Chamberlain Clinic as a secretary and then at the Missouri River Adolescent Development Center as a group leader.
In 1994 Darlene and her sister Marrilynn, moved above Deadwood, S.D., and opened Strawberry Bed and Breakfast. In 2000, Darlene moved back to Chamberlain where she worked at Vets Whoa and Go until retiring in 2011.
Darlene was a member of the American Legion in Faith, since 1950 and the United Church of Christ since moving to Chamberlain in 1957. Darlene was active in her church and enjoyed many years of teaching Sunday School and being active in Women’s Fellowship organizing and serving funerals. Darlene was the Queen Bee for the Mity Mo Red Hatters.
Darlene enjoyed anything that had to do with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She spent many hours supporting them in their activities. In her free time, Darlene kept busy crocheting, knitting, quilting, sewing, gardening, providing dog daycare for Rudy and spending time with her family. She lived by the motto “working hard so you could play hard.”
Darlene died peacefully surrounded by family Jan. 17, 2019, after a brief time at Ava’s Hospice House in Sioux Falls, S.D. She was 87.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 31 years, Byron; son, Jerry W. Fees; parents, Jack and Lulia Thomas; sister, Eldora Wattenhofer; brothers, Gerald “Sonny” Thomas and Bernard Thomas; brothers-in-law, Wendell Fees, Ronald Fees, Glen Fees, Paul Lehman, and Raymond “Buddy” Wattenhofer; sister-in-law Rose Fees; mother-in-law Emily Fees; and father-in-law Floyd Fees.
Darlene is survived by her daughters, Linda (Bill) Lurken of Mitchell, Chris (Jerry) Fees of Chamberlain, Joyce (Jim) Havlik of Madison, S.D., Darla Bohnet of Chamberlain, and Lori (Terry) Schultz of Madison; 16 grandchildren, Sholi (Jim) Glaus, Cadena (Shawn) Powers, Commander Cameron (Mandy) Havlik, Holly (Jerad) Evans, Jason (Jessica) Havlik, Dustin Havlik, Beau (Christina) Maxon, Amber (Jeff) Jensen, Cash Fees, David (Mark) Farnsworth, Matthew (Brandi) Havlik, Brittany (Justin) Fischer, Trey (Julie) Bohnet, Byron (Christina) Bohnet, Makena Schultz and Mallorie Schultz; 32 great-grandchildren; two great-great-grandchildren; sister, Marrilynn Sawatzky of Park Rapids, Minn.; sisters-in-law, Verna Mae Thomas of Spearfish, S.D., Faye Fees of Opal, S.D., and Darlene Palmer of Aberdeen, S.D., and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
Services were Jan. 22 in Chamberlain.
Memorials may be directed to the United Church of Christ or the Madison Area Special Olympics in Madison.