By Jennie Zeitler
Darlene Schoenberg, the Peach Woman of the Month for January, grew up on a farm near Lake Henry. She began nursing while still in high school, as a nursing assistant in Paynesville.
After graduating from nursing school at the St. Cloud Hospital, she started working in Sauk Centre one month before she and Jim Schoenberg were married in 1980, and settled on the family farm halfway between Greenwald and Spring Hill.
“Doris Jennissen called in 1991, to say a hospice program was starting,” Schoenberg said. “She asked if I would help out and I’ve been there ever since.”
Schoenberg described the team approach used in hospice care, utilizing nursing skills, spirituality and social workers.
“If we can’t fix an illness, we find a way to support people on their journey,” she said.
She describes many good mentors who have inspired her.
“Many caring, compassionate and dedicated doctors and nurses have mentored me,” she said. “It’s not just a job for them, not just task-oriented.”
Schoenberg was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) in 1984. Her journey took a turn 10 years ago when her kidneys formed cysts and stopped functioning.
“Three out of four siblings in my mom’s family had it,” she said. “Several cousins have it and three out of four siblings in my family have it.”
Schoenberg received a transplanted kidney.
“That kidney will not get the disease,” she said. “After the doctor told me that odds were I would not get a kidney from a family member, I asked friends. They found that three of my friends could be donors.”
“I was given this gift of life these past 10 years,” she said. “I feel like I have angels watching over me. I can help other people because of the people ‘filling my pot.’”
Hospice is not the only way Schoenberg gives back to others. For 10 years, she has been part of a group organizing the Rally for the Cure golf tournament for breast cancer awareness.
“After a girlfriend was diagnosed with breast cancer, a group of about eight of us who golf started this at Meadowlark Golf Course in Melrose,” Schoenberg said.
But she believes it’s time to give her attention to other things.
“We did it for 10 years,” she said. “Let’s see if someone else will take it.”
Another event Schoenberg now participates in is the annual PKD walk in the Twin Cities every September.
“I do fundraising through word-of-mouth. Some of our kids have had their place of employment donate,” she said. “There is a $100 fee per person to participate, and you get a free T-shirt. It’s a fun gathering.”
Schoenberg used to teach religion classes at her parish, St. Michael in Spring Hill. She is also the parish nurse, acting as a resource to members of the parish and visiting those confined at home.
“We want them to be able to stay in their own homes as long as possible rather than going into an assisted living facility,” she said. “It helps me appreciate what I have.”
The Schoenbergs sold their cows 15 years ago. They continued to raise crops on their century farm for a time, but now rent the land.
“It gave us the opportunity to do more with the kids,” said Schoenberg about their three children and soon-to-be three grandchildren.
The Schoenbergs also enjoy golfing together.
“Hospice takes a lot out of me,” she said. “I have to replenish now and then. Jim’s my barometer, letting me know when it’s time for a break.”
Schoenberg cherishes time spent in the sunroom at home.
“We sit out there and can see the church four miles away,” she said. “It’s a little piece of paradise.”
She has joined the ranks of other Women of the Month who wonder why they were chosen.
“Sometimes you just go about your job, doing what you have to do, and don’t realize you are having an impact on people,” Schoenberg said.