Darlene Sullivan was born and grew up in Granite City and seems to have always had a connection with food in some way, a love of preparing and cooking it – especially for others – for all of her 75 years. Her generosity and caring for others have been evident through the sharing of her love of cooking and baking for others.
An example of these traits was shown when she gave a present of a box of her homemade Christmas cookies to each member and the teacher in her Sunday school class at First Baptist Church. That was quite an undertaking, but a very small one (in her opinion) in comparison with other outpourings of blessings given to other.
Meet Darlene Sullivan, a multi-talented, gifted and relative newcomer to the area, as she had lived at the Lake of the Ozarks, in a small cove named Ivy Bend, for 25 years.
In the Early Days
Darlene’s parents owned Old Time Allen’s Grocery Store in Granite City, in which she worked six days a week. She baked and cooked after school and whenever else possible, and enjoyed it.
“If we had a lot of eggs, she said, “I would make cream-puffs and sometimes a cake.”
Later, in high school, she won a $5 first prize in a baking contest, and when she had married and had children, her family – along with others – reaped the blessings of her culinary skills and experience, along with others.
When her children were young, “I always baked about 1,000 cookies to give away on holidays to friends and family,” she said.
“When I retired and moved to Lake of the Ozarks in Ivy Bend, I also gave cookies to neighbors who came on weekends to their places at the Lake … and never forget the mailman or gas man.” she said.
Life on the Lake of the Ozarks…
… was almost perfect – beautiful and, as Ivy Bend is small, the community was very friendly – everyone knew and cared about everyone else. Neighbors helped neighbors….and Darlene became the one to call on to help keep the lake sites – boat docks, homes, yards, landscaping, etc. – in good shape.
While many of the residents still worked in the city (doctors, professionals, etc.) and came to the lake for relaxation and recreation, Darlene had retired and moved there for her everyday home.
When her neighbors found that she could do anything she set her mind to, they employed her to keep their places up and to beautify their lake sites with flowers and other landscaping features.
Handy with tools and paintbrush, she helped build boat docks, paint both inside and outside , run the weed cutter, mix and pour cement for walls, drives and other areas. She cleared areas and built retaining or decorative walls, lifting and maneuvering large rocks into place, and tuck-pointed them.
As Ivy Bend is on the water, the yards were not easy to maintain, as they were rocky and some are on a steep incline. She had a photograph someone took of her weed-eating on a steep front yard incline down towards the lake. She had to wear tethers fastened around her waist and secured at the other end, anchoring her as she went back and forth, horizontally and vertically, cutting the weeds between the rocks
Not only was Darlene a willing and cheerful neighbor, willing to help out her neighbors, which provided an added income for her, but she also gifted them with cookies and other cooked dishes from time to time, just out of the goodness of her heart.
She cans, cooks and bakes because she enjoys giving all these treasures from her kitchen as gifts.
Ivy Bend Lakeview Baptist Church …
… had about 45 members, she said. “For two years, I was in charge of the kitchen.
“It was out in the country, with lots of hills and rocks, and gravel roads. If it got icy, we would have to cancel church.
“It took 45 minutes to get to a town for groceries, so we always stocked up on things. Our church had a dinner once a month, so I always put out a paper for anyone to sign to bring something, but not too many signed, so I always furnished and cooked the meat, potatoes and lots of desserts and punch.”
Darlene always prepared a special dessert consisting of crunched-up Oreo cookies, instant chocolate pudding and Cool Whip. “The kids loved that and I had to start taking two pans of that; one wasn’t enough. The kids always lined up to ask me for leftovers, so I always brought some extra for them,” she said.
Darlene still makes that special dessert and has brought it to First Baptist Church of Vandalia dinners along, with her special lemon meringue pie.
“On the Sundays we had dinners, seems like more people came,” she said.
Serving the Lord’s House
In addition to cooking, Darlene’s “gifts” also include painting, gardening, sewing and yardwork, all of which she contributed happily and willingly to the church, inside and outside. She painted animals on the wall in the nursery, painted the kitchen, made curtains and table cloths for the kitchen, bought and planted flowers for the exterior, cleaned in the church and, sometimes, cut the grass.
“The church couldn’t pay me; just to help out was a blessing,” she said.
And the Church Kids…
Darlene, who once held craft programs and classes, liked to help with Bible school by making signs and special projects for the classes. She has a photograph of a comical and colorful life-sized standing crocodile that fit in with the Bible school theme that year. The crocodile is dressed like a kid, with a big, friendly smile and carrying a book. The entire figure is made from cardboard and painted in cheerful, bright colors.
She made animal and fish pictures to fit the lessons – whatever the teachers needed to help the children learn. She also made special Bible school cakes and had a photograph of twelve gingerbread houses she made to give to the children at Christmas.
Special Times in the Ivy Bend Neighborhood
“On Memorial Day, the neighbors came in to their places across the street from me at the lake,” Darlene said. She especially enjoyed these times, because much of the time, she was the about only one there in the cove. Some of her neighbors lived in St. Louis, Independence, Kansas City, and Lee’s Summit, coming to their Ozark lake homes for vacations or holidays.
“We all got together and had a big fish fry. They provided the fish they caught and I always took ar least two or three desserts. The kids always ask for a special dessert. We usually had 30 or 40 people at these fish fries. “
“I’ve always enjoyed baking and/or cooking, and I hope that the younger generation learn instead of just using the microwave or the packaged foods,” she said.
“I was at the Lake of the Ozarks in Ivy Bend for 25 years. I moved to Vandalia to live closer to my daughter, Karen and family.
Since Darlene’s move to Vandalia, several of her Ivy Bend neighbors have passed on. She has received letters from them. One stated that she would always have a bed at their home, and another wants cookies. He offered to send her $30 for a box of her cookies.
She misses her close Ivy Bend friends, but felt the need to move closer to her family – “I won’t be around forever”, she said.
She has made her present home very pretty, charming and comfortable, with her paint brush, abilities, ingenuity and help with advice and technical things, using her son’s knowledge of electricity, for example.
Many Miles and Many Differences…
… exist between the Lake of the Ozarks and the Kaskaskia River ,
But we feel that Darlene Sullivan’s move to Vandalia and Fayette County will prove to be as much as an asset and blessing to Darlene, as it is to already proving to be to those who know her and to First Baptist Church- (especially to the kids & the church dinners)..
And come spring and summer, her back yard flower garden will probably be a showplace and as welcome as she is to the neighborhood.