FORT WORTH -- Valerie Jean Petelin passed away Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, at home in Fort Worth, Texas, in the arms of her family -- just minutes after receiving Holy Communion; her Cowboys on a muted TV about to clinch the NFC East title and listening to Elvis gospel music serenade her to her heavenly home.
For 13 years, Valerie successfully battled a rare cancer with a tongue-twisting name, Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia; however, her final villain was an unrelated, very aggressive, spindle cell secondary cancer that took her life within a month of diagnosis. Valerie Jean Joe was born Jan. 12, 1941, in Helena, Mont., to Frank Gillett Joe and Virginia Rose Vantura Joe.
She was always a wee bit miffed that her birth date caused some to think her Christmas gifts satisfied both celebrations. Her parents ran a successful business leaving Valerie (an only child and voracious reader) plenty of time to diligently unwrap all her Christmas gifts, play with her toys, read her new books, and carefully rewrap them.
She also showed her joyful yet devious side when she and her best friend flooded the home basement to create an indoor swimming pool. Valerie remained forever passionate about her childhood friends and her Big Sky Country.
Her lifelong love of books and children inspired her to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Montana State College in 1963. It was there Valerie met John Petelin, the only love of her life for almost 60 years (three years pledged and 56 married). Valerie began her professional career in North-Enid, Okla.
Multitasking wasn't a word her generation used, but she was a master at it! Although happily married 56 years, she was really a courageous, de facto single-mom, while her husband continually sat nuclear bomber alert during the Cold War and was deployed 632 days flying B-52 combat missions during the Vietnam War. During this time, Valerie also substitute taught almost daily in grades 1-12. After 21 continuous years teaching second graders, she retired from the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD in 2002 but remained active mentoring new teachers. Her fellow teachers became a second family, and were steadfast in their friendship, love and caring.
Besides Montana, Valerie lived in Oklahoma, California, Alabama, Nebraska and Texas; she traveled extensively overseas and cruised upon the sea in large ships and small sailboats. A certified scuba diver, she was also qualified to land John's small plane in an emergency. She loved ballet, Theater Arlington and her bunco buddies. She was a member of Kappa Delta Sorority, Alpha Delta Kappa Sorority and numerous clubs and organizations, always serving in multiple leadership positions. Valerie was loved most for her personality, kindness and exceptional listening skills. The reason so many photos show her in her recliner, dogs on her lap, marathon chatting family and friends. Her beautiful soul will be missed, but never forgotten.
FUNERAL MASS: 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, 5953 Bowman Roberts Road, Fort Worth, Texas, 76179, followed by a celebration of life. Cremains will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., alongside the love of her life when he passes.
SURVIVORS: Husband, John; daughter, Therese "Terri' Haws, son-in-law, Chris Haws; daughter, Cheryl Dastugue, son-in-law, Michael Dastugue; and dearly loved grandchildren, John "Jack" Dastugue, Ethan Dastugue, Hunter Haws and Caroline Dastugue.
MEMORIALS: In lieu of flowers, the family suggests you consider a memorial donation to The American Cancer Society, 800-227-2345, earmarked research; The International Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia Foundation, 941-927-4963; or your favorite charity.
CHURCH ANGELS FUNERAL HOME, Fort Worth, 817-403-9691.