Darlene McKee

Darlene Francis (Collins) McKee was born Oct. 14, 1926, to Martin and Leonida Collins in Chamberlain, S.D. Her family soon moved west and she was raised on a buffalo ranch south of Deadwood, S.D., along with six younger siblings Nadine Kliment, James (Barbara) Collins, Mary Collins, Patrick (Rita) Collins, Geri (Dennis) Cummings and Chris (Bill) Miller.
Darlene attended nursing school at St. Martins before getting a teaching degree at Black Hills State College. Her father Martin taught at the one-room schoolhouse in the former town of Pactola, S.D. Darlene followed in his footsteps, teaching in the same schoolhouse, which had been relocated when the Pactola Dam was built.
Darlene met Thomas McKee, the future love of her life, in the JCPenney men’s department, where he was employed. Martin Collins, who had taught Thomas as a young student, made the introduction.
Darlene and Thomas were married June 2, 1947, in Hill City, S.D. Thomas was transferred to Havre, Mont., to manage a JCPenney store.  There the family began to grow with the birth of two daughters, Kathy and Reni.
Thomas was transferred again, this time to Butte, Mont., where a son, Rick, was added to their family.  One final transfer brought the family back to Rapid City, S.D., where they had another son, Mike, and daughter, Colleen. With a growing family, they purchased a ranch south of Deadwood, just a few miles from where Darlene had grown up and had four more children, Susan, Kevin, Jim and Julie.
Darlene was very involved with her children’s lives, helping with 4-H Club activities, hauling their livestock to the county fairs and taking them to judging schools and state fairs throughout the year.  She captured their lives through countless photographs and cheered on their every endeavor.
She loved ranch life and worked hard, both indoors and out. Over the years she would haul water, feed cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and horses, all while raising nine children with the love of her life, Tom.
Her green thumb kept African violets, geraniums, marigolds, petunias and wild roses always blooming on the ranch. Darlene enjoyed going to the sewing club with friends in Rapid City. She and Thomas often went dancing at the Baken Park Dance Hall where, according to Thomas, “everyone was always lining up to dance with Darlene.”
Darlene brought her ever-growing family together at gatherings for every Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. A fantastic cook and hostess, she was quick to keep everyone’s coffee warm and belly full.  She kept on top of her family and friends’ birthdays and anniversaries, always sending a handwritten note to mark the occasion.
She was rarely seen alone in life or in pictures; Tom was always nearby showering her with hugs and affection. They really were a living example of two becoming one, and we rejoice knowing she is now reunited with our Dad.
Darlene is remembered as a loving wife, mother, grandma and great-grandma.  A devout Christian, her faith in Jesus Christ and love for His people was visible to all who knew her.
On Jan. 6, 2022, our sweet, loving Mama took her last breath on this earth and her first breath of heaven, meeting her Savior face to face. She passed away peacefully in her ranch home, surrounded by her children. She was 95.
Darlene was preceded in death by her parents Martin and Leonida; her brothers, Patrick and James; her sister-in-law, Rita; her sons-in-law, Donald Nixon and Maurice Adams; and her loving husband, Thomas McKee.  She is survived by nine children, Kathy (Joe) Hurley, Reni Nixon, Rick (Jody) McKee, Mike (Karen) McKee, Colleen Adams, Susan McKee, Kevin McKee, Jim McKee, and Julie (Donovan) Broberg; 20 grandchildren; and 16 great-granchildren.
Visitation will be held at Osheim & Schmidt Funeral Home from 2-3 p.m. followed by a Celebration of Life from 3-5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14. On Saturday, Jan. 15,  the recital of the Rosary will be at 9:30 a.m. followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. at Blessed Sacrament Church. Graveside Service will be at a later date in 2022 at Black Hills National Cemetery.
Osheim & Schmidt Funeral Home in charge of funeral arrangements.

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