Darla Jean Berry (Corgard) of Sebeka, Minnesota age 62 passed away on September 26, 2019. She was born to Leroy Raymond Corgard and Daryl Elaine Corgard (Dunnell) on April 4, 1957, the youngest of five children and baby sister to her loving siblings. Darla has two daughters, Amanda Marie Fickes, 33, and Laura Jean Fickes, 30. She married the love of her life, Kevin, in 2006.
Darla grew up in Fridley, Minnesota, and attended Fridley Senior High School where she graduated in 1975. She attended the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management where she graduated in 1982 with a degree in Business Finance. She then embarked on a 15+ year career with the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis where she served as a bank examiner, traveling to many regional towns, and later traveling to Fed cities across the country to teach other professionals. While working, she went back to night school at the U of M and completed her M.B.A. in Commercial/Investment Banking.
In 1998, Darla pursued her life-long dream of moving to a farm near Sebeka, Minnesota, and raising horses, along with other livestock, with her then-husband, Mark Fickes. She later worked for Otter Tail-Wadena Community Action Council helping to manage the non-profit providing low-income energy-efficient housing. She also enjoyed working as a substitute bus driver for the Sebeka School District and livestock handler at the Perham Stockyard. Darla culminated her career serving as the City Clerk for New York Mills City Clerk, a diverse role she greatly enjoyed, where she was able to utilize some of her greatest strengths and felt challenged with the diversity of projects, continual learning, creativity, problem-solving, and growth opportunities this role afforded her. She thrived in this career until deciding to retire in August of 2017 to pursue her bucket list and make the most of her remaining time. In retirement, she found community in her church, where her love for God grew. All of this time, she continued to raise, train, and enjoy her horses.
Darla was a beloved mother, wife, sister, daughter, and friend. She was stubborn, smart, strong, honest, loyal, brave, fierce, independent, inspirational, mentoring, selfless, and loving.
Her strength, bravery, and independence shown through in many ways. One time, the family chartered a sailboat in the Apostle Islands, and they became stranded on the craft during a severe storm. When the Coast Guard came to rescue them, Darla ended up sailing the boat out with the help of the Coast Guard, because she was the most skilled sailor of the group. She also chopped wood, repaired farm machinery, castrated pigs, sewed her own camping gear, navigated wilderness with a map and compass, and stitched up uterine prolapsed ewes. During the Fridley tornado, she hid in a car with LeMoyne for safety, and she often shared the story of having to be the first to look out the window after the storm, as her big brother was too afraid to check, thinking the garage had collapsed on them.
Darla kept impeccable records, whether it was keeping the best farm records the IRS auditor had ever seen or developing and charting every symptom of her health for the past four years. While working at the Fed, she once had a meeting in Washington D.C. with Alan Greenspan and many other top executives. She was the lowest rank in the room, and yet was the only one who was able to answer a decisive question about the case. Everyone went to her for answers and advice.
She was a bit of a tomboy and could be stubborn as a mule when she made up her mind about something. As a child, she coerced her older brother into trading chores so that he would do her “girly” indoor chores like washing dishes while she got to mow the lawn and do his other fun, outdoor chores. Hiding all of this, of course, from her beloved father LeRoy.
She was active, outdoorsy, and competitive, participating in the first ever high school state gymnastics meet and completing triathlons throughout her life. She brought her daughters on a Grand Round bike ride every Memorial Day and portaged and paddled canoes over 100+ mile trips through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Even while undergoing chemo in January 2019 she went downhill skiing with her sisters on the North Shore and managed to out-ski everyone. There wasn’t much she couldn’t do.
Darla was straightforward, practical, and honest. She did not seek others’ approval, except for a few people she admired, such as her father, oncologist Dr. Block, and friend Pat Gavin. She sometimes sought attention in silly ways, from her corny “Corgard” jokes she inherited from her dad to bragging a bit and insisting her Mayo doctors acknowledge that she had the best records they had ever seen. She was not arrogant, but wanted appreciation and affection from key people (the rest could buzz off). She was generally honest and straightforward in sharing her views, worrying little about how she was perceived as a whole and encouraging her daughters to be true to themselves. She was practical and avoided too much worry, instead getting straight to the things that mattered most.
Darla was a loyal friend, inspired by and an inspiration to others. A couple friends preceded her in difficult journeys, with both their friendships and struggles influencing her life path. Darla met one of her closest friends, Lori Luck, at the Fed and maintained a close friendship for years. Lori developed breast cancer, and died when only 40 years old. Darla recognized the preciousness of life and pursued her dream to have horses and live on a farm just a year later. In Sebeka, Darla met Pat Gavin, a similarly smart, strong, and strong-willed woman. Pat was a steadfast support and free-thinking friend who had many adventures in her own life and encouraged Darla in continuing to pursue her dreams.
When facing her own life-altering disease, Darla did not take long to come to the conclusion that she would continue to live life to the fullest, making the most of her time. She shared adventures with husband, Kevin, including going deep sea fishing, travelling to Germany for Oktoberfest with him and her sisters, and touring south Florida and Key West for her last birthday. Darla went on horse riding trips out west in the mountains, Black Hills, and badlands. She also went on several trips with her daughters, traveling to Boston; riding horses on the ocean beach in Savannah, Georgia; and visiting the Olympic Peninsula for a wedding where they paddled a Salish canoe together. She also embraced life near her farm home, often going fishing with Kevin and horse camping at Paul Bunyan and Pillsbury State Forests. She arranged a “sisters retreat” to make sure to spend time with her sisters every year in the summer. They rented an RV or stayed in a cabin, playing cards games and cooking together. In 2019, she visited Como Conservatory on Mother’s Day with her husband and daughters; saw the birth of her filly Dreamer in June; and celebrated her thirteenth anniversary with Kevin in September.
Darla was loving and selfless, and would have wanted everyone to live their lives to the fullest, and to not be too sad about her being gone. She felt her cancer was a blessing in making her closer to her daughters, to God, and in giving her time to get things ready and pursue what remaining things she wanted to. Darla had this attitude towards life before cancer too, as she went out to try to achieve all her goals and nothing really held her back. She was hopeful, looked towards the future, and was practical. She was not afraid to live her life, and made peace so she was not afraid of dying. In the end, she was only concerned with how her death would affect her loved ones. Darla did not leave this earth with regrets - she embraced life and remained hopeful and encouraged, even if it was no longer in curing her cancer. She would have wanted her funeral to be a celebration, with silly things such as the horse carriage and zoo animal that will be part of her service at the Como Conservatory. She is still guiding us now, in these plans, and in everyday life. Instead of being a phone call away, though, now we just listen to her answers in our hearts.