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Darlene  Dager

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“All our love and prayers to you Rande as you maneuver through this trying and incredibly sad time. Your mom was a wonderful soul and you can clearly...Read More ยป
1 of 1 | Posted by: Shannon Boehmer-Kramer - MI

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Darlene Dager was born an only child on January 11, 1929 in Los Angeles, CA to Arthur and Ella Pettit. Her father died on Valentine's Day in 1934, when Darlene was only 5 years old, leaving her to be raised by her now widowed and single mother. In 1937, at 8 years old, the two of them left and moved to Cadillac Michigan where her mother met Leslie Bridgeman, the son of the owner of the then Bridgeman Dairy. It wasn't until Darlene was 14 and left home to attend a private boarding school, that her mother and Leslie would be married in 1943. After her graduation in 1947, Darlene met Neal Dager, who worked at the Greyhound bus station in Grand Rapids. They were married in 1948 and had their first child, Rande, in 1949. Their second child, Roxanne, was born in 1950.

The family moved to Muskegon, MI in 1951. In 1952 they had their third child, Darlene (Shelli), and in 1953 their fourth and last child, Shannon, who was born with Down's syndrome. This changed the course of their lives. At that time, many families with Down's children sent them to institutions to be raised. Darlene and Neal were among the first in the Muskegon area who chose to raise Shannon on their own. A front page newspaper article was written about this in the local Muskegon Chronicle. Neal was inspired to earn his degree in Special Education and attended college for the first time to begin his journey in 1958. This was also when Darlene began her career as a foster mother and took in babies who had been given up for adoption and would live with her until they were placed with their new families, often only months later. Along with these, she also raised two severely mentally impaired children who lived with her into their adulthood.

Her husband Neal finished his bachelors degree at Eastern Michigan University in 1962 and began his career as a special education teacher in Muskegon and went on to earn his masters degree in 1972. Neal passed away in 1988 with adrenal cancer and Darlene continued her career as a foster mother and raising her daughter Shannon. In 2012 she was admitted into the hospital in Muskegon with pneumonia, resulting in her and Shannon moving to Battle Creek to be closer to her son Rande, who was the only family member close enough to be able to help her in case of further emergencies. Shannon lived much longer than anticipated and only recently passed away this past November at the age of 65. Darlene had already lost her oldest daughter Roxanne in 2004, leaving her now as a widow with only two of her four children remaining. She had her 90th birthday this past January and had been dependent upon oxygen for several years, due to her previous pneumonia which left her with the use of only one lung and a weak heart. Her condition worsened and she was admitted into Bronson Battle Creek on March 8, where she remained until her passing on March 20. Having lived a life of service, affecting many children and their families, Darlene is survived by her son Rande who teaches math for Kellogg Community College and her daughter Shelli who lives in Cleveland, Tennessee and recently retired from her career as a labor and delivery nurse. A small private service will be planned at a future date. Arrangements by the Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care. Personal messages for the family may be placed at