Herta Elisabeth Darley (née Zechel) of Centennial, CO, passed away peacefully while surrounded by her family on Friday, May 12th 2023. Herta was born on February 15, 1935, in Chicago where she grew up with her older sister (Doris) and younger brother (Gus). As a child Herta enjoyed school, painting, playing the piano and playing with her siblings and friends. She graduated Valedictorian of St. Scholastica High School. The Zechel family enjoyed spending summers in Colorado at the Fall River Lodge where they would hike, ride horses and play shuffle board with the many families who returned every year. This instilled a love of Colorado and for the outdoors that would last throughout her lifetime.
Herta attended the University of Wisconsin where she majored in Science and Geology. She joined the Chi Omega sorority, studied hard and also managed to have plenty of fun. She completed a year of graduate work at UW while also traveling throughout the US and Europe with other students, generating countless stories of adventures and mishaps that she often shared with her children and grandchildren.
In 1958 Herta began working in the Biophysics Department at the University of Colorado Medical School. Although she was offered the opportunity to pursue a PhD in Biophysics, she opted to follow in her parent’s footsteps instead and entered medical school. It was in the Biophysics lab that she met and began to date a tall and handsome young man named Brad Darley. After they became engaged, Herta withdrew from medical school and they were married on May 6, 1961. They spent their honeymoon in Europe “on five dollars a day,” where they also purchased their prized VW bug before returning to the USA.
In July of 1962 they were blessed with their first child, Druanne Marie. Shortly thereafter they packed up their little VW bug and moved to St. Louis where Brad completed his Master’s degree in Hospital Administration at Washington University. During this time their second daughter, Andrea Lynn was born. One more move in that little VW took them to Cleveland for Brad’s first post graduate job at the Cleveland Clinic and the arrival of their third child, Braiden. After five years in Cleveland, they spent two years in Oahu, Hawaii before returning to the place they considered home and loved the most, Colorado.
Herta stayed busy with their three kids and volunteering in the community and pursuing her interest in art. She helped create, design and build a neighborhood swim and tennis club, was PTA President, helped to form a neighborhood Garden Club and worked on the grant committee for the Cancer League. As a talented artist, Herta enjoyed drawing and painting. Her children remember many Decembers when she would painstakingly create their family Christmas cards using a silk screen. She would enlist the entire family for the multi-step process and put so much love and effort into those cards for friends and family. When the cards were finished she moved on to baking hundreds of delicious cookies and encouraged (ie required) her husband and children to go caroling and deliver cookies to many family friends. The (horrible) singing, accompanied by a child playing (almost equally horribly) the flute were tolerated by friends every year as Herta’s cookies were spectacular. Teenage mutiny put an end to that memorable family tradition. Interested in real estate, Herta got her license and had a thriving practice for over 20 years.
Retiring in 1992, she and Brad bought a second home outside of Tucson where they enjoyed golf and a large community of friends in addition to hosting countless family visits. Throughout their retirement they went on biking trips in the US and Europe with their favorite friends, always returning with smiles and so much gratitude for these wonderful relationships. Herta approached life with an incredibly positive, can-do attitude. Her intelligence, curiosity, quick-wit and work ethic were equally matched with her open heart, never-ending kindness, and a sense of humor that left all with a smile. She was the best wife, mom and grandma a family could hope for and will be forever cherished as such. Herta’s legacy and love will live on. She is preceded in death by her parents, Gustav and Margarete Zechel and her daughter, Druanne Marie. Herta is survived by her husband Brad (Ward Braiden Darley), her daughter Andrea (Jeff) Tarr, and her son Braiden. She has six grandchildren: William Dewispelaere and his wife Erin Drake, Andrew Dewispelaere, Sarah and Claire Darley, and Connor and Jeremy Tarr. Herta is also survived by her sister and brother, Doris Kling and Gus Zechel, and nieces Lauren (George) Kovac and Lisa (Don) Whetstone.