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Darlene Peters memorialized on national TV newscast

Swinomish member dies of COVID-19


December 30, 2020

Her remarkable devotion to others as she worked and traveled was well known to all in the Swinomish and La Conner communities where Darlene Peters grew up.

Now the entire country knows, too.

Peters was among recent COVID-19 victims whose memories were honored and many contributions saluted during the national PBS NewsHour broadcast Christmas night.

“Out of all the COVID-19 deaths each week,” said Peters’ lifelong friend and former Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Senate Chairman Brian Cladoosby, “five are honored and their stories shared.”

Cladoosby thanked Swinomish historian, archivist and records manager Theresa Trebon for her role in helping family members bring Peters’ story as told by PBS anchor Amna Nawaz to a nationwide audience.

And quite a story it is.

Peters died Dec. 17 at age 58, a lifespan marked by daily acts of kindness that were in no way random. They were by design.

The segment profiling Peters, a La Conner High grad who went on to earn degrees from St. Martin’s College and Seattle University, was first of the five PBS tributes that aired on Friday.

Nawaz cited Peters’ compassion, honesty and non-judgmental nature, traits grounded in her Catholic faith and accented by an infectious laugh. PBS viewers learned that Peters, an outstanding public speaker, returned to Swinomish as a mental health counselor after completing work on her master’s program.

The tribute for Peters included still photographs of her at work and with family both on the Swinomish Reservation and beyond.

Nawaz had opened by noting that “as many Americans adapt to a different Christmas holiday, we remember some of the more than 326,000 people who have died from the coronavirus this year.”

Still, memories of the countless impacts made by Peters extend well beyond the reach of the PBS broadcast. She was, first and foremost, a healer.

Before her passing, Peters had lived life to its fullest, traveling the world to share her message of positivity and the powers of faith and education.

One of Peters’ daughters, Hilary Edwards, now a legal research assistant at the Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law at Arizona State University, followed her mom to Seattle University to earn a bachelor’s degree from the Albers School of Business and Economics.

The mother-daughter duo was featured three years ago in a feature story written for Seattle University by Tracy Decroce, in which Edwards credited Peters for providing her the inspiration and motivation to pursue higher education.

The 2017 article was reposted on social media shortly after Peters’ passing, a couple days prior to the Christmas Day PBS coverage. Both sparked dozens of responses from posters far and wide.

Many recounted how a reassuring smile and much appreciated kind word from Peters still resonates, sometimes across decades.

Perhaps none said it better than Annette Kalt and Art Fillazar, each of whose friendships with Peters spanned more than 30 years.

“Darlene,” Kalt said, “was light and love. The world just became a little dimmer.”

Fillazar said this world’s loss is eternity’s gain.

“We are blessed,” he said, “to have an angel in heaven.”


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