Della Bernice Luten (affectionately known as “Tody”), was born on June 7, 1928, in Bowling Green, Kentucky to the union of Eddie and Mandella Wilkerson. She was the youngest of four daughters.
She was baptized at an early age at State Street Baptist Church in Bowling Green. After graduating from State Street High School, Della attended and graduated from Central State University in Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1950. While at Central State she met her husband, the late Joseph B. Luten. They were married on June 17, 1950. Della’s first teaching job was in Owensboro, Kentucky. In 1954 she and her husband were offered teaching positions with the South Bend Community School Corporation.
After getting acclimated to a new city and career, she decided it was time to expand their family. They were proud to welcome their only son Quincy who brought them so much joy.
After teaching kindergarten and first-grade students at Oliver School in South Bend, she discovered that some of her students lacked the basic learning skills required to succeed. After discussing this with her husband, she decided to quit her teaching job and pursue her dream of opening up a daycare center.
In 1975, Del’s Educational Day Care Center was officially opened. She was the first black-owned daycare to be licensed in the State of Indiana. In addition to her role as a business owner, she also provided counseling and Mentoring to her staff and others. Some of her first employees were her sister-in-law, Annell Waters, and late brother-in-law, Lester Waters.
Della was a longtime member of Grace A.M.E. Zion Church where she served on various ministries until her health prevented her from attending.
She was one of the founders of the Drifters Inc., since1958.
On Saturday, November 7, 2020, Della received her golden crown. She leaves to cherish her precious memory, her loving son, Quincy; grandson, Joseph (Afomia); sister, Willie Ailster of Aiken, South Carolina; and sister-in-law, Annell Waters of South Bend. She is also survived by two special nephews: Carlos Falson of Warren, Michigan, and John Collins Jr. of South Bend; a host of nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, great-great-nieces and nephews, cousins, and friends.
Della was preceded in death by her loving husband of 62 years, Joseph; her granddaughter, Tameka; sisters: Virginia Wilkerson and Frances Hawkins.
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