Memories and conclusions

Mar 22, 2012 By Betty Starks Case

About a month ago, I promised myself a long respite from writing farewell columns to loved friends.

But Darlene Cooper left this life March 11, and the lifelong connection to her and her families just won't let go of my heart. So I write this one for them all, knowing by the attendance at her services that many readers have their own treasured stories as well.

Our shared lives and memories began in high school days in Pavillion.

When I came to Wyoming from South Dakota at age 15 in the middle of my junior year of high school, Darlene was 13 and a member of the freshman class of about 15 students -- a large one in Pavillion then. Yet no class in that high school at the time was so large that you didn't soon know each student personally.

Darlene and her siblings, I and mine, also attended MYF (Methodist Young Folks or Methodist Youth Fellowship) meetings on Sunday evenings. And I remember Darlene's father, Charlie Schmuck, being the main promoter in building that church in Pavillion, shortly after we all moved here.

A few years later, Darlene's soon-to-be husband, Dale, came home from the Air Force and walked into the old Temple Drug, where I was visiting with Darlene. She clerked there at the time. She generously allowed me to share in welcoming Dale home with hugs -- the memories of dancing and laughter and fun teen days pulling at us all.

Ned and I were married then, and I treated (?) Dale to one of my newlywed meals. He was such a tease -- so like a brother. I remember a sly suggestion that, "If it takes long enough to get a meal on the table, a guy is sure to be complimentary."

Another image that clings to memory is of our crowd dancing in the hay-mow of a little red barn that still stands on the Dave and Pat Pince farm near Midvale. In the back rooms of my mind I can see Dale Cooper sitting cross-legged on the hay-mow floor playing his guitar and singing "Yellow Rose of Texas" and other popular hits of the time while the rest of us danced cautiously around the ladder exit -- the fast and only route down from the hay-mow.

When we owned Pheasant Crest Farm near Midvale in later years, I dreamed of moving the little red barn over to our place. Its present owner said, "No sale."

Wonder what other memories might lurk there?

While we watched Darlene and Dale raise their family of three children and we raised ours, Dale's parents, Bill and Essie Cooper, and my parents, Steve and Alma Starks, shared many happy times playing cards and enjoying food, friendship and laughter. They remained close friends to the end of their days, as we have with the following generations.

The memories are endless, but birthdays are special treasures.

Dale never forgot that he and my mother shared the same birthday. Each year on Dec. 20, he appeared at her door to spend a pleasant hour or two visiting with this longtime friend, who appreciated his sunny visits so much.

In later years, we discovered that my mate and Darlene had arrived on Earth on the same calendar day about three years apart. On Jan. 9 each year thereafter, Ned and Darlene shared a hug and happy birthday wishes, maintaining the family tradition.

The relationships continue. We love Darlene and Dale's kids as we loved them and their siblings and parents.

I note the little poem in Darlene's funeral program. It sounds so like her. And I'm reminded of Dale's passing and the family's request that as a lifelong friend I assist in the service. As we were visiting about what I might say, Darlene almost shyly pulled a poem she'd written about Dale from a drawer and asked, "Would this be appropriate?"

I read it and exclaimed, "It would be the best part!"

The poem spoke Darlene's feelings of love as she watched Dale head out with shovel over his shoulder, a happy tune whistling from his lips, to irrigate the productive, rolling farm land they'd owned and lived on since the second year of their marriage, and where their three children played and grew to adulthood.

In both cases, Darlene's own words provided the perfect conclusion.

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