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Delphine is survived by children Thomas, Judith, Timothy, Catherine (fiancé John Cutshall) and Kelly Sheridan, and grandchildren Jackson, Devin and Nina Sheridan (with former daughter-in-law Jodi (Gordon) Garcia), John Tenney and Caleb Michaels; as well as devoted sister-in-law Valerie (Spencer) Tarnas and numerous nieces and nephews.
Delphine is predeceased by her husband John Michael “Mickey” Sheridan, parents Charlotte “Lottie” (Kolowicz) and Peter Tarnas, brothers Richard (Mary Louise) Tarnas and Harold Tarnas, and in-laws Charles (Frances) Sheridan and Arthur (Donna) Sheridan.
Born in Detroit on November 20, 1928, Del attended Gesu Catholic School, Immaculata High School, Marygrove College, and the Detroit Conservatory of Music. She met Mickey in 1949 on his return to Detroit from WWII military service. Del was good friends with his younger brothers Charlie and Art as members of Quin-Six, a Catholic social club that hosted dances. A nun who had taught Mickey in school heard he was in town and “recruited” him to attend a dance where Del and Mickey met. She invited him to her 21st birthday party but he showed up with a date. They danced that dance until they were married on November 21, 1959.
Del and Mickey daringly honeymooned in Havana as Fidel Castro was consolidating power after the Cuban Revolution, ignoring great consternation among the aunties and uncles. Del and Mickey took revolution in stride and returned to Detroit where they welcomed 4 babies in 5 years, Tom, Judi, Tim, and Catherine. A few years later they added their 5th child, Kelly, to reach their full quota of revolutionaries, leaving Del to spend the next several decades managing a rambunctious household.
Del has a sparse lifetime resume of paid work. Starting young she worked in her father’s Hamtramck tailor shop and this led to paid work doing bookkeeping for a variety of businesses until she married. But like many women of her generation it is her resume of unpaid work that reflects a full nine decades of commitment and passion; to lifelong learning and travel, service, music and art, gardening, but most especially her family and her abiding Catholic faith.
Del left behind reams of notes taken in adult education and taped classes on French, German, art and art history, personal growth, and bible studies. Her travels started after WWII driving a convertible with best friend Lucy cross-country to California. Later trips with her children led Del to learn how to pitch a tent, drive a trailer, then motorhome, and finally to more civilized tours to Europe and behind the Iron Curtain including a surprise trip to Europe to drop off a camera and goldfish crackers for her daughter Kelly. Del continued her solo travels to Europe and China into her 80s.
Starting in the 1950s Del was an active member of the League of Women Voters of Detroit until raising her children required all of her available physical and metaphysical arms. After her children left the house she returned to her political activism including working as an election day volunteer and visits to Washington D.C., she attended her last protest march in her 80s aided by a cane. As her husband pointed out, Del and at least one daughter consistently cancelled out each other’s vote. Throughout her children’s school years she attended PTA meetings, taught Sunday school, and volunteered with tutoring programs for children with disabilities. She volunteered at the Detroit Institute of Arts for over 30 years, and at the end of her time she spent a term as an officer of the Detroit Institute of Arts Volunteers.
Del was a product of the deep music culture in Detroit in the early 20th century, studying voice at the Detroit Conservatory of Music and performing on radio. Mickey loved sharing the story of visiting nightclubs as a couple, and as he walked to the gents he would hear Delphine’s voice coming from onstage behind him as she had joined the band to sing a song. Del’s musical interests were passed on to her children as guitar, piano, flute, trombone, clarinet (for a blink), then again piano and flute cycled through family life. Del’s children, Tim and Kelly, continue their musical practice and performances today.
Del loved to work in her garden and belonged to a variety of garden clubs for most of her adult life. She could often be found cutting the lawn with a push mower or shoveling snow from the driveway. As they aged up her children were drafted for these chores. Fortunately for Mickey, he never managed to qualify. Her lush greenery and flowers surround the family home and are still a wonderland for native bumblebees, birds, and deer.
Del spent decades carpooling her children to activities that included baseball, softball, football, cheer leading, gymnastics, bowling, art, Polish dancing, orchestras and music lessons, and was a devoted presence in the stands for competitions and performances. When swimming joined the rota Del put her foot down and required all the children to participate to accommodate a limited 24 hour day. And when she took her five children to the pool, she would dive in herself and churn out laps. Not surprisingly for a woman sharing a name with the Greek word for dolphin, four of her children went on to be accomplished swimmers at West Bloomfield and Our Lady of Mercy high schools, as well as the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Indiana University.
Deeply committed to her faith, for decades her voice was a staple in local church choirs and she was among the founding members of Prince of Peace Catholic Church, where her children Tim then Kelly became regular instrumental players. Del also was a dedicated volunteer through the church as a lay minister, and served the local nursing homes providing communion to infirm residents who could not attend mass. And when it was her turn, Kathy Trock from Prince of Peace Catholic Church ministered and supported Del in her Catholic faith.
Eventually as the ravages of Alzheimer’s overtook her, she was admitted to one of those facilities, Sunrise of West Bloomfield. Del lived the final four years with the assistance of committed Sunrise caregivers supported by Henry Ford Hospice, and blossomed in their affectionate care. Sharing daily meals with her fellow residents, special dessert and holiday events, visiting singers and dancers, spa nights and other events brightened her days. In her final years and months Del’s memories, words and attention were sparse. But hearing her favorite songs of her youth or hearing Tim play guitar over Zoom she would pull her wheelchair closer or cock her head as she waited to identify a song in the initial bars, and then nod as she recognized and surrendered to the song. Catherine sent fresh flowers monthly, and her son Tom, a consistent presence in Del’s last years, would always bring a stack of family pictures on his visits to spark memories and stories he would share with her.
Delphine’s ebbs and flows were mostly unchanged over the last year underpinned by a robust and institutionally renowned appetite. Most people wouldn’t apply “suddenly” to her passing, but it was a shock. In spite of her debilitated medical labels she maintained a full presence and pleasure in things she enjoyed. And she was a revelatory presence for her children who experienced her earlier decades lived at more than extra full strength.