Loretta Louise Suelter
January 15, 1932 – May 2, 2021
Loretta L. Suelter passed away on May 2, 2021 in East Lansing, Michigan, at the age of 89, following a long illness. Her husband, Clarence of 66 years, together with her three children were at her side. Loretta was a twin. She and her beloved sister Loraine were born in a farmhouse in Thornton, Iowa, on January 15, 1932 to the late Kenneth and Letha Dodge. Being a twin was a defining aspect of Loretta’s life, and she would often introduce her sister to others as her “womb mate.” They were side by side in most all things until the two began their married lives. They lived far apart in different states thereafter yet always maintained their twin bond.
The sisters attended a one-room school until the ninth grade, along with their older brother Wayne. In 1939 and 1945 two younger sisters Norma and Myrna came into Loretta’s family. Following high school and after a short stint in the telephone business as a switchboard operator, Loretta and Loraine attended Iowa State Teachers College for one year. Neither sister taking to the teaching profession, they next enrolled in an airline communications course and subsequently moved to Dayton, Ohio where they obtained civil service employment at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It was there, in 1954, that Loretta met her future husband (she knew a good Lutheran boy when she met one!). She and Clarence were married in 1955 and began their long life together.
In 1961, now with children, Loretta and Clarence settled in East Lansing, where Clarence began his career with the MSU Department of Biochemistry. It was after Loretta came to the Lansing area that she pursued her interest in art, taking several classes at the Lansing Community College. She was encouraged by an instructor who was particularly enthusiastic about her talent, claiming that she “had more artistic talent in one finger than the rest of her classmates put together.” This encouragement kick-started the ensuing more than fifty years of painting and drawing, during which time Loretta perfected her skills, producing, showing, and selling hundreds of art pieces in the mid-Michigan area. She was an active member of the Lansing Art Gallery throughout.
She loved her three children and the twenty-plus years when she and Clarence were actively raising them. She did all the things an average middle-class mom of her era would do—preparing school lunches, driving to and from music and swim lessons, baking cookies for school bake sales, et al. She lovingly made many of her children’s clothes on the sewing machine she worked and saved for as a single woman in Dayton and which she continued to sew on until she was in her eighties. She even made Barbie Doll clothes for the girls’ dolls-little dresses, pants, and suits for their 10-inch-high dolls. She spoke often of her fondness of the family’s summer camping trips, pitching the tent, cooking on the camp stove, playing “I’m going on a picnic…”, and seeing the country’s natural and historic wonders. She would drive miles out of the way if she spotted a directional sign to an historical marker, much of the time with her children whining in the back seat of the car because they just wanted to quickly get to their planned destination.
She honed her golf swing over forty years of play in leagues and with family and friends. In 1990, Loretta had her moment of golf greatness when her league play hole-in-one on the 9th hole at Four Winds Golf Course was reported in the Lansing State Journal (that news clipping was found among her papers with the word “Wheeeeee!” handwritten across the top in her bold script). During the off season, Loretta started playing in a bowling league after the age of seventy. She got a kick out of her clever bowling ball sharing arrangement with her good friend and bowling partner.
With her young family in tow, she spent 1967-68 in Rome, Italy, where Clarence was on sabbatical at the University of Rome. A formative time for the entire Suelter family, the year in Italy was Loretta’s introduction to ancient art, a new language, new foods and cultures, and very tall mountains. She traveled over much of the European continent, sketching and later painting her favorite sites. Loretta and Clarence had two other sabbaticals together, one at UC Berkeley and the other at UC San Diego as well as many other unique travel adventures. She was keenly interested in all the places they visited and the friends they made along the way. Many of the travels that she and Clarence took in the last twenty years involved the pursuit of genealogical records for both hers and Clarence’s families. Together they documented her Dodge and Hiller descendants, even visiting the church in lower Manhattan where her grandmother Louise was baptized in 1879. Loretta’s grandmother was also a twin and for whom Loretta was named.
Those who knew her best loved her for her sense of humor and playfulness. She liked to prank on her husband now and again. One such prank was pinching his earlobe to see how red it would get or tying knots in the legs of his pajamas. Clarence was the consummate good sport, even the time Loretta made him pose with her in a restaging of Grant Woods’ famous painting American Gothic. She liked to sketch Clarence when he was not looking, often when he was napping.
She enjoyed a good laugh. Once she received an elaborately decorated birthday gift box, delivered to her while dining at a fine Italian restaurant. So excited at what the gift could be, she tore off the paper to find one dozen assorted glazed donuts. She roared with laughter and savored each donut over the course of the next week. Did we mention how much she loved a good donut? She loved a good donut! She reluctantly collected over 100 eggs of various sizes and made of different materials over a period of 30 years. The collection started when she purchased three carved alabaster eggs from a shop in Rome for $3 apiece. Thereafter, her husband and children were always searching for the next perfect egg to grow her collection, which she cataloged in a little notebook its description and provenance and who gave it to her. In the 1990’s she told her family “enough, No more eggs!” Her last recorded egg acquisition was in 1997. After that, she got more socks at Christmas time.
Loretta was a baptized in the Lutheran church and remained a faithful follower of Christ. She and Clarence were active members of Martin Lutheran Chapel for over fifty years.
In 2015, her family noticed an increase in Loretta’s forgetfulness and disorientation. In 2016 Loretta’s condition was diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. So began a gradual and steady decline in her mental and physical condition. In mid-2016, she and Clarence moved to Burcham Hills Retirement Center (BHRC) in East Lansing where both could get assistance with daily life activities. They lived together on the Memory Care wing, where Clarence remained supportive and devoted at her side throughout her illness. The family will forever be grateful for how Loretta was cared for and treated by all the caregivers and staff at BHRC, particularly in the last year of her life when none of her children or other family could be there with her. BHRC partnered with Clarence, stepped in to protect her, and gently held her in their care.
Loretta is predeceased by her brother Wayne Dodge, and brother-in-law Fred Krause. She is survived by her loving husband Clarence and three children Jenifer Nelson (Carl); Leslie Suelter (Jerry Calderon); and Kevin Suelter. Loretta loved her four grandchildren, Stephanie Nelson, Emily Hartough (Brian), and Sam and Jack Cohen-Suelter. She was still of clear mind when her great grandchild Oliver Lindeman was born in 2015 and falling in love again with this new young life. She will be missed by her beloved twin sister Loraine Krause, as well as her equally loved sisters and their families Norma and Clifford Horn; Myrna and Robert Chamberlain; and her sister-in-law Sharon Dodge.
Memorial tributes are kindly suggested to the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center at 119 N. Washington Square, Suite 101, Lansing, MI 48933.
Funeral services for Loretta and a celebration of her life will be held on Saturday June 12, 2021 at Martin Lutheran Chapel, 444 Abbot Road, East Lansing, Michigan, beginning with family visitation at 10:00 a.m., a service at 11:00 a.m. and an outdoor reception following (appropriately distanced and weather permitting). Loretta will be interred at Glendale Cemetery in Okemos, MI with a private family committal.
Saturday, June 12, 2021
Saturday, June 12, 2021
Loretta Louise Suelter
Walter and JoAnne Holz
May 19, 2021
Dear Clarence and family. We thank God for the fellowship times we had with you and the happy memories. God's peace be with you.
Walt and JoAnne
May 18, 2021
I moved into my condo around the same time as the Suelters and they were perfect neighbors. Loretta was always smiling and stopped to chat whenever we were both outside. My condolences to Clarence and family. Loretta was a lovey women and I know you will miss her greatly.
Alice and Roy Erickson
May 18, 2021
We didn't meet Loretta until just before she and Clarence moved into Burcham Hills. When Roy spent time at Burcham in respite care Clarence and Loretta invited him to sit with them at meals. Loretta's sweet smile was a joy. Clarence, we hold you and your family in our hearts.
May 16, 2021
I’m very sorry to learn of Loretta’s passing. She was such a kind and thoughtful person. When I first started taking senior exercise classes at Hannah Middle School, she was the first to welcome me. I always looked forward to our pre-class visiting. When I found some of her seashell paintings in the annual rummage sale, I was thrilled to have a few pieces of her art. I still have them hanging in my bedroom to remind me of a special friend.