Gretchen Ann Valentine died peacefully on Oct. 19, 2017, in her home at Glazier Commons, an assisted living facility in Chelsea, Mich. Gretchen’s remaining family includes her three daughters, Jill Russell and Julie Belhaj (Ann Arbor, Mich.) and Jennifer Russell (Plano, Texas), as well as eight grandchildren (residing in Illinois, Michigan, Texas, and Louisiana), and two great-grandchildren. Allen (Val), Gretchen’s husband, passed away in Dallas, Texas in 1999.

Gretchen was born in Youngstown, Ohio on Dec. 7, 1928 to Leslie Rader, a City of Niles administrator, and Eunice Tadsen, an elementary schoolteacher. Gretchen had one brother, Richard Rader, who predeceased her in August 2016. Gretchen grew up in Niles, Ohio and graduated from McKinley High School, where her beloved Uncle Bob was principal, and spent her young educational years in the same public school system where her Aunt Kate taught kindergarten and her mother taught elementary school. A hometown girl, Gretchen grew up near immediate and extended family and built a rich set of memories of growing up in Niles and spending time with her mother’s family in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Gretchen graduated from Kent State University in 1950 with a degree in Education. She belonged to the Chi Omega Sorority and held the honor of “Miss Kent State” in her graduating year. Gretchen was an elementary teacher in the Cleveland Public School System, and while she taught third grade briefly, she soon found her true calling as a kindergarten teacher. Gretchen also taught kindergarten in Alpena, Mich., for several years, and spent that time teaming with a colleague who would become a close friend, Phyllis Manitz.

Gretchen met Allen Valentine, a WWII Veteran and English major from Wooster College, when he was an administrator at Cleveland Cliffs, in 1950 in Cleveland, Ohio. They married in December 1950 in Niles, Ohio, and had three daughters, Jill (1956), Julie (1958), and Jennifer (1966).

Gretchen and “Val” (as Allen was affectionately known by his family and friends) spent the next 25 years moving to various parts of the country as Val pursued his career at National Gypsum Company. They lived in Westlake, Ohio, Metro Detroit (Farmington, West Bloomfield), Northern Michigan (Alpena), East Aurora, N.Y., and finally settled in Dallas, Texas, where they lived for 30 years.

Gretchen was very sociable and fun, and had a varied set of interests that she pursued throughout her life. She was an excellent bridge player, who taught and played duplicate bridge. She was involved in Tray Club, Garden Club, volunteered for Public Broadcasting Stations in the Detroit and Dallas areas, and worked as a docent at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Gretchen was a life-long Episcopalian, and attended the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration on Hillcrest Drive in Richardson, Texas, and volunteered at the church in many capacities. Gretchen made many friends wherever she lived, and kept in touch with them by visiting, writing letters, and traveling.

Gretchen inspired many with her elegance and grace, her wry sense of humor, the twinkle in her eye, her love of gardens, the arts, a good bargain, and her appreciation of a good bridge play. She will be missed by all who knew her.

In lieu of flowers, Gretchen’s family suggests that you support Gretchen’s commitment to reading and public education through the Gretchen Valentine Memorial Fund. This fund will purchase books for the Paddock Elementary school library in Milan, Mich., where Gretchen’s daughter, Julie Belhaj, teaches first grade.

Please make checks payable to Paddock Elementary School and write Gretchen Valentine Memorial Fund in the “Notes” line. Donations can be given to Julie or Jill or can be mailed to Paddock Elementary at 707 Marvin Street, Milan, MI 48160.