Formerly of Baker City, 1933-2020
Mary Darlene Gelskey, 87, a former Baker City resident, died Jan. 7, 2021, in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by her loved ones.
The rosary will be said and the Funeral Mass will be celebrated Saturday, Jan. 16, at 10 a.m. at St. Mark Catholic Church in Eugene. there will be a private, family graveside service at Westlawn Cemetery in Eugene.
She was born Mary Darlene Chaves on Dec. 7, 1933, at Baker. Mary grew up in rural Eastern Oregon, the daughter of Portuguese immigrants, Joseph and Marie Chaves. Mary Darlene graduated from St. Francis Academy in Baker where she excelled scholastically, and enjoyed debating and playing the piano, organ and cello. While working at the theater in Baker she caught the eye of Edward James Gelskey, who had moved there from Weiser, Idaho, to work as a linotype operator at the Baker City Herald. Mary fell in love with Edward as he met her two requirements — he was Catholic, and he had a car. Edward and Mary, aka Jim and Darlene, were married on June 6, 1953, at the St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in Baker, and then moved to Centralia, Washington, where they purchased their first home and set up Gelskey Cold Storage. The young couple and their ever-expanding family moved to Northern California in 1961 and then ultimately to Southern California where they resided until 1992.
Darlene was an exceptional homemaker and enriched the lives of her children by making many of their clothes and by providing salon services and haircuts. She always found the extra time to help her children excel, assisting with homework and science projects galore, while her husband worked long hours in the printing business. She was an extraordinary chef and would singlehandedly prepare large family meals, which always featured her unbelievably delicious, deviled eggs, potato salad, a pie selection (minimum three), and her world-famous cream puffs.
In 1970 Mary began working outside the home at the News Post, a Monrovia, California, newspaper, and then transitioned into vision care as an optician, a career that she enjoyed until she was 75 and working at Rainbow Optics. Darlene enjoyed attending the games of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, rain, or shine, sunbathing, and yard work, but did not know the meaning of selective trimming. Her perspective was that no plant or tree should be taller than she was. She also dabbled in auto body repair work, out of necessity.
Darlene and Jim were faith-filled Catholics, becoming longtime, active members of St. Mark Catholic Church in Eugene. Mary Darlene had an unbelievable sense of humor and always made everyone feel at ease and comfortable in any setting.
Darlene is survived by her sister, Judith Joan Spearin; her children, Michael Gelskey and his wife, Emily, Gail Draper and her husband, Paul, Nancy Stultz and her husband, Gary, Sheryl Manning and her husband, Mel, Kathleen Bernard and her husband, Charlie, and Julie Nuttall and her fiancé, Tim Card; her imaginary friend, Leroy. Grammie Pancakes is also survived by 10 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren; as well as cousins, nieces, nephews, neighbors, friends, and St. Mark parishioners.
Darlene was preceded in death by the love of her life, Daddy, her husband of 63 years; her first child, Leon Joseph Gelskey; her parents, Joseph and Marie Chaves; her brothers, Arthur, Wilfred, Francis and Martin Chaves; her sister, Lena Clements; and Chubbs, the family cat.
For 2 1/2 years she endured the rigorous ritual of nightly peritoneal dialysis and eventually succumbed to SOB/CHF. Mary Darlene often remarked that one of her many goals was to become the first living, canonized saint. Had she endured, with changes in the canonization process, she may well have accomplished her objective. It has been said by many who knew and loved her that after she takes up residence, heaven will never be the same.
Mary Darlene will always remain in the lives of those who were fortunate enough to have known her. She leaves us with a legacy of love and selflessness manifested by her service to others. We miss you, Mommy, and we will always carry you in our hearts, her family said. Thank you for your love and for all that you joyfully did without complaint.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Discalced Carmelite Nuns Shriners Hospital, 87609 Green Hill Road 911 W. Fifth Ave., Eugene, OR 97402.