LORETTA MAE PETERSEN was born to Henry and Katie (Kickert) DeBoer on February 15, 1928 in South Holland, Illinois. The family moved to Leota, Minnesota when Loretta was six years old. Loretta remembered a wonderful childhood with her sister Elaine, growing up next door to her grandparents and working at the family store. She attended high school in Edgerton, Minnesota and then went on to college to get her teaching certificate. Her very first year of teaching was at the District 21 country school, and the new teacher would be boarding with the Petersen family. When she drove onto the yard, she saw Ralph up in the haymow of the barn. Matchmaker Grandma Elvira seated the two of them next to each other at the dinner table, and the rest is history.
Ralph Petersen and Loretta DeBoer were married on September 2, 1948. Ralph was the love of Loretta’s life; they complimented one another perfectly for 60 years. In her words, “No one could ever measure up to Ralph.” She waited almost 13 years, eagerly anticipating their reunion.
Their children, Darrell and Paula, were Ralph and Loretta’s pride and joy. Loretta enjoyed a close relationship with her children, and each of them inherited her love of people, her devotion to family, storytelling punctuated by laughter, and her strong will(!) During their growing up years, she worked side-by-side with Ralph on the farm, was an accomplished seamstress, and shared their home through her gift of hospitality.
Ralph and Loretta had fond memories of the early days as charter members of the American Reformed Church and felt that it blessed their family to be so active in the church. Loretta helped start Girls’ League, attended Circle, taught the same Sunday School class for 35+ years, and also played organ for many years. She and Ralph enjoyed taking church families water skiing and boating. Church was important, but her faith went beyond religion to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She studied the Bible, listened to sermons, had daily conversations with Jesus, and centered her life around Him.
Ralph and Loretta were snowbirds who went to Texas every winter. Loretta really enjoyed the fun and family-like relationships there at Fig Tree Park. She had an adventurous spirit, and she and Ralph enjoyed camping, traveling, and living life to the fullest. Her mantra was “Do it while you are young!” But then again, she always felt young. “I have to remind myself that I am old!” Loretta continued going to Texas on her own for several years after Ralph died.
Loretta was an amazing cook who baked legendary buns, mashed potatoes, salads, and desserts of all kinds. She loved to try new recipes. Gifts of food were her love language, and her kids and grandkids never left empty handed.
Loretta never missed an opportunity to meet new people or make a connection with someone she knew. To say “she was social” is an understatement. She couldn’t go anywhere without having a conversation with someone and finding something in common. She truly felt every person had worth and value and that people should be thanked for what they did. Loretta was the life of the party -- and she was often hosting it! She loved to play all kinds of cards and games, and somehow her table always had the loudest laughter. Fun was her middle name, and she often wondered, “Why wouldn’t you want to have fun?”
Loretta was “Grandma” and “Grandma Great / GG” to her grandkids and “greats.” She prayed for them by name every night and added an adjective for each one before their names as she brought them before the Lord, such as “that little firecracker, Brennan, etc.” The family has rich memories of celebrating holidays, playing cards and games, and going camping, boating, and adventuring. If there was fun happening, Grandma was at the center of it. No matter what, everyone was fed… and fed some more… and then needed to discuss what they ate and how good it was (especially “the meat”!). They’ll remember her detailed stories, her hilarious antics, her hugs, and her unconditional love.
Loretta noticed people and took delight in all things, big or small, and took a genuine interest in people’s lives. She recounted her blessings daily and often said, “I have had the most wonderful life!” She appreciated and exclaimed over any gesture of kindness, and she enjoyed sending birthday and anniversary cards as one of her own expressions of love.
On Sunday, July 25, 2021, Loretta went to be with her Lord and Savior at the age of 93 years, 5 months, and 10 days.
Loretta liked to have the last word, and she wrote this message to her loved ones to be read at her funeral: “May your tears be tears of joy! I have joined my Lord and my precious loving husband Ralph in our Heavenly Home. Thank you to everyone for the wonderful care and love you showed to me. I was never lonely. --All my love, Loretta.”
Loretta is lovingly remembered by her children, Darrell and wife Debbie and Paula and her husband Dan Giles; grandchildren and their families, Lon and Sonya (Petersen) Bjornrud (Sage & Maisy), Craig and Holly Petersen (Davis, Jace, Calla and Brennan), Justin and Vonny (Petersen) Kleinman (Hank), Dustin Schneekloth, and Cody Schneekloth (Avery, Oakley, & Eli); sister, Elaine Bolt Petersen; brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Jim and Carol Drews; sister-in-law, Dorothy Petersen; and other relatives and many friends. She was preceded in death by her husband, Ralph; parents, Henry and Katie DeBoer; son-in-law, John Schneekloth; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Harold Bolt, Gordon and Gwyn Petersen, Kurt Petersen, and Silver and Elaine Reker.