Darlene Gerenda Wanner, 58, passed away due to a heart attack while at home on Nov. 23, 2019. Although she has physically left us far too soon, what she has imparted will always live on in a most productive, spirited and memorable way.
Darlene was born on July 5, 1961, in Cartersville, Georgia. She then moved to Billings in 1968 with her mom and dad, Dot and Gene Kolstad. Two years later, she became an adoring big sister to Renee. She took care of her like she was her own and was the best big sister and friend Renee could ask for. Darlene married the love of her life, Bob Wanner, in 1987. They absolutely adored each other. The two of them raised their five children; Jarrett, Cassie, Shane, Kelsey and Kayla. Darlene and Bob were also blessed with five grandchildren; Haley, Makayla, Braxton, Gerinda ‘Rindi’, and Lexi. Her children and grandchildren were the loves of her life, along with her husband. Her admiration for her nieces and nephews was also abundant. She treated them like her own kids and absolutely loved them. Family was first and foremost in Darlene’s eyes. She lived fiercely by the phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’. Her aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family and many friends will miss her dearly. We know she misses them, too.
After they had their first child, Darlene started her own business, Darlene’s Daycare. Not only did she raise her own five kids, but Darlene raised hundreds of other peoples’ kids throughout her 31 years of daycare. She became well known as ‘Mama Darlene’. Her husband would note that everywhere they went, someone would recognize her and it would be one of the kids she was fortunate enough to have come through her daycare. Bob and Darlene spent many, many days in the bleachers cheering on their kids. Basketball, soccer, volleyball, football, softball, baseball, and track. They loved watching their kids play the sport they love. From family vacations and weekends at the cabin, to days at the park playing ‘duck, duck, goose,’ Darlene lived to see her kids having fun. She believed it does not matter what you’re doing, as long as you’re happy. After years of protesting getting a pet, Shane insisted that he was bringing home a puppy. The first time Darlene held the puppy she knew she had just found one of her best friends. Shane’s dog, Mya, quickly became Darlene’s dog. She and Mya were inseparable. After a couple conversations with Darlene you inevitably knew all about her fur baby and how amazing their bond was. Mya misses her mama very, very much.
If you were fortunate enough to know Darlene, then you know that she had a larger than life, spitfire personality. To most, Darlene was known as ‘long winded’. When she started a story, you might as well pull up a chair because you were in it for the long haul. For her husband, the stories just got longer each time he heard them told. If anyone were to ask Bob if he ever gets to talk, he would tell you that she was more interesting. She had the best ‘warped’ sense of humor and it really shined during one of her many stories. Her kids knew her best as the person they could always go to no matter what. Her arms would be wide open and she always gave the best hugs. Darlene was the best at saying what everyone else was thinking. ‘Some days you’re the bug, and some days you’re the windshield’ was what she would say to her family when something wasn’t going their way. She left a life full of loved ones behind her, far too soon. Darlene was lucky enough to see all of her kids find their spouses and know that they are all well loved. Bob had recently retired and Darlene was set to retire in January. They had plans in place to travel and enjoy retirement to its fullest.
Favorite songs provide a lens into her caring nature:
‘Come Away With Me’-Norah Jones
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‘Love Grows Best in Little Houses’-Doug Stone
‘Stand By Me’-Otis Redding
‘Dancing in the Moonlight’-King Harvest
‘Sunday in the South’-Shenandoah
‘My Eyes Adored You’-Franki Valli & The Four Seasons
She was one of the strongest, fiercest, most compassionate, caring and selfless people you could ever come in contact with. Much of this she learned from her own parents, Gene and Dot Kolstad. It’s hard to believe that God has a plan for everything when heartache and pain are so abundant in this moment, but we know the happy memories will eventually replace the tears. None of us will ever know why you had to go so incredibly soon, but we will all see you again one day, more than ready for another one of your infamous ‘Mama Darlene hugs’. Until then, we know you will be the little voice in our heads telling us to toughen up!
A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, Nov. 30, at 11 a.m. The location will be at King of Glory Church, 4125 Grand Avenue in Billings, MT.