Florence Detzner

Florence Marie Detzner

Florence Marie Detzner, who was known for her ability to make friends of all ages, her love for children and those in need, and the rearing of five successful children, died peacefully on November 18th in Tallahassee, Florida. She was 96.

Florence had an extensive address book with the names of hundreds of neighbors, fellow parishioners, long time and new friends, and acquaintances met while waiting to be seated at restaurants. With her white hair, favored light blue clothes and warm smile she was a magnet for people, especially children including nine grandchildren: Laura, Christine, Sheryl, Holly, Ryan, Eric, Clare, Althea, Ashley and five great-grandchildren: Cameron, Sophia, Zachary, Abbie, and Isabel and many school kids she tutored in Sunday and elementary schools. Florence will be forever remembered by family and friends, especially long- time best friend Susanne Wood, her dedicated neighbor Beth Stockbridge, and her faithful pastor Fr. Michael Foley.

She was born Florence Graczyk on December 30, 1915 at home in industrial south Chicago to parents who were the children of Polish immigrants. As a child she worked in her parents' grocery stores, often rising at dawn to do chores before attending school in East Chicago and Calumet City, Illinois. One of her fondest childhood memories was when at the age of ten she won the Miss Betty Bright contest and was paid "a small fortune" of $10 a day to model Betty Bright hats. In 1925, she was named Miss West Hammond (now Calumet City) which led her to several modeling stints as an adult.

At 18 she married Frank Detzner in Calumet City, Illinois. They had limited educations but shared a deep religious faith and commitment to one another and were married for 56 years. Together, they met one of their life goals when all five children graduated from college and went on to successful careers and families of their own. She is survived by loving children Ken (Mary Kay), Roger (Joyce), Cindy (Steve), and Dan (Carol) and she was sustained by the memory of Suellen.

Flo was always interested in improving her mind and broadening her experiences through travel. After high school she took classes at a Chicago business school. Later she took oil painting and watercolor courses, attended the Iconography Institute in Oregon, and participated in Elderhostel at the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. She celebrated her 90th birthday with a 2-week trip to Greece where she climbed the Acropolis in Athens and visited nieces in the Peloponnesus.

While raising the family, Florence worked at a variety of jobs including retail sales, bookkeeper, secretary, and administrative assistant. She loved working for the principals at Bishop Noll Institute and for the Head of Art Department at Purdue University-Calumet. At Noll she managed implementation of the first computerized record keeping system and at Purdue she enjoyed the creative atmosphere and began taking oil painting classes. These classes led to an artistic avocation that flourished after she and Frank moved to Clearwater, Florida in 1971. She favored nature and still life and more than 100 of her paintings hang on the walls of homes of family and friends.

In 1984, she and Frank moved to Tallahassee to be closer to their youngest son Ken. A devoted member of Good Shepherd Parish, Florence made many friends volunteering at church-sponsored Thanksgiving dinners, outreach to the poor and infirm, and writing hundreds of parishioners suffering illness or a loss as the anonymous "card lady". Even in the final weeks of life, Florence's ministry to the infirm continued as she reached out to those who were less well than she.

The funeral mass will be celebrated Friday, November 30 10:00 am at Good Shepherd Parish. Please wear blue. Memorials may be made to Big Bend Hospice.


Published in Tallahassee Democrat on Nov. 28, 2012