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Darlene Helen Rathman Bartelt Berger was born in Grand Mound, IA on January 25, 1936, to Jurgen and Gladys (Hicks) Rathman. She grew up on the family farm with her parents, younger brother, Gary, and beloved maternal grandfather, Charles Hicks. Darlene was active in her small country school and 4-H. She was an accomplished seamstress, winning top honors at the Iowa State Fair for several years. After high school, Darlene attended Wartburg College in Waverly, IA and earned a two-year teaching certification. She met her future husband, Merlin Bartelt, at Wartburg College and they were married on June 2, 1956, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Grand Mound.
Darlene and Merlin moved to Dubuque, IA where Merlin attended Wartburg Seminary and Darlene taught elementary school. Darlene was a strong, supporting and caring partner in all their years of ministry as a couple, serving in the Lutheran Churches at Wausau, WI, Green Bay, WI, Eau Claire, Wi, Waseca, MN, Racine, WI and finally, Alexandria/Nelson, MN. During this time Darlene was active in Homemaker’s clubs, Bible study, Women’s group at church and teaching Sunday school, all while raising her three children, Sharon, Joel and Jon. Darlene enjoyed being part of her community, serving as Welcome Wagon hostess and working in Racine at Millager’s Greenhouse. That led her to start her own, home-based, silk floral business, Floral Décor, in Alexandria. She was very creative and enjoyed designing banners for their churches. Darlene had an entrepreneurial spirit and became a leading distributor of Juice Plus in Alexandria. She and Merlin traveled extensively in their RV after his retirement from the ministry and she continued with her businesses. Merlin passed away in 2010 after fifty-four years of marriage.
At a Juice Plus conference Darlene met Verdell Berger and fell in love again. She married Verdell on October 13, 2012, at Calvary Lutheran Church in Alexandria. Darlene and Verdell had eight wonderful years together, being active with their Juice Plus ventures, enjoying children and grandchildren, and loving their life on the shores of Lake Henry in Alexandria. Darlene was an active member of First Lutheran Church in Alexandria for twenty-eight years.
Darlene left this life on Saturday, November 14, 2020, at Diamond Willow Assisted Living. The family is grateful for their wonderful care. Darlene often said, “I know where I’m going.” And she lived her life of faith well to the next journey. Darlene is preceded in death by her parents; husband, Reverend Merlin Bartelt; and son-in-law, Paul Collins. She is survived by her husband, Verdell Berger; brother, Gary (Marjorie) Rathman; children, Sharon (Joe) Bridges, Joel (Katie) Bartelt and Jon (Leela Rao) Bartelt; grandchildren, Travis (Andrea Oseland) Collins, Krista Collins, Jenna Collins, Lauren (Brandon Kostecka) Bartelt, Rachel (Sean) Gilbertson, and Nihal Bhakta; as well as Verdell’s children, Kristi (Steve) Gagne and Dan (Jamie) Berger, Verdell’s grandchildren, Alex (Megan) Arel, Jordan Arel, and Abby Arel; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
A private funeral service with public live streaming will be held at 1 PM, Friday, November 20, 2020, at First Lutheran Church in Alexandria. Reverend Greg Billberg will officiate. Interment will follow in the Fahlun Lutheran Cemetery north of Nelson, MN. In lieu of flowers memorials are preferred to First Lutheran Church building fund or Hospice of Douglas County or the Douglas County Food Shelf. Arrangements are with the Anderson Funeral Home and Crematory.
1655 18th Ave E South McKay
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