Enjoy the article below about when the newest Pulaski County Tribe member, Chloe Kulwicki, had the pleasure of connecting with PCT founding member, Lynn Darda.
Lynn Darda refers to herself as a “transplant”. After enjoying a delicious brunch together one chilly Sunday morning, we found that we had many similarities, including being “transplants” to Pulaski County. I simply could not believe that Mrs. Darda wouldn’t be somewhat of a local celebrity, after seeing her wave to two people, and stop and talk to another one, all within five minutes of walking in the door to Warriors Cafe. Leaning over my maroon and gold coffee cup, I tell her, “There is no way you are a transplant. You know half the people in this place!” Laughing, she begins to paint a story in my mind of her early experiences in Pulaski County.
Lynn and her family moved to Monterey when she was in middle school. She tells me about growing up in South Chicago, around the hustle and bustle of the city, and the solitude she felt while visiting her grandparents in rural Pulaski County. She enjoyed visiting their family’s farm, enjoying the abundance of garden produce, and breathing the clean air. Lynn cherished those memories in Pulaski County so deeply that she planted her family’s seeds in Pulaski County in 1985. The Dardas immediately fell in love with their Craftsman bungalow near the river, and they’ve lived there ever since. Lynn tells me about her early years in Winamac, and how she didn’t know anyone in Winamac except for her husband and son. She tells me about the days she would load Scott into his stroller and walk to the supermarket in town, where Tippy’s is currently located. Lynn lowers her voice and describes walking into the supermarket and just hoping someone would say “hi” to her. She was alone most of the time because her husband was working in a factory to support their family. Lynn tells me about feeling out of place in such a small town where most families’ roots are planted generations deep. It’s almost hard to imagine Lynn being without many friends because she is such a social butterfly now. However, I believe it’s these hard times that truly help build a person’s character, and I know that Lynn is the kind and caring person she is now because of those lonely days in the grocery store.
In 1990 the Darda family welcomed their daughter JoAnna to their family. It was about that time Lynn transitioned her teaching career from Monterey to Winamac. She’d found a subject that spoke to her soul-one she’s continuing to share with people in the community. It was Art. Lynn taught art at the elementary school for many years, touching countless lives and making endless memories with the children of Pulaski County. This still continues to impact Lynn into her retirement, as some of the students she once taught are now joining in with her community efforts. Mrs. Darda continues to inspire members of the community outside the classroom by participating in craft workshops, and community events such as the PCT Art in the Park, and by assembling PCT welcome packages for new Pulaski County residents. Her “heart for art” now shines in across Pulaski County, as Lynn helped plan and execute Pulaski County Tribe art projects including bike tire art along the Panhandle Pathway, sculptures in the Winamac Town Park, and murals in Monterey and Medaryville. This self-proclaimed “transplant” is truly an asset to Pulaski County because she has a genuine love and appreciation for this small corner of the world. Lynn describes our area as “a humble community with rich natural resources”. I couldn’t agree more that Pulaski County is a hidden gem within Indiana, and I believe Lynn could even be considered somewhat of an “expert” on this county, as she’s lived here for an admirable 42 years. Lynn now allocates her retirement time to Placemaking & Community Engagement through the Pulaski County Tribe. Her eyes light up as we rapid-fire contemplate all the ways we want to create positive change in Pulaski County-some of Lynn’s goals for the future include art projects within the community, special events for women, and community projects focused on mental health.
By the end of our conversation, Lynn and I had discussed plans to accomplish at least 10 different projects, events, or workshops. We shared many stories and belly-laughed probably three or four times. Despite the clouds and chilly temperature on that Sunday morning, Lynn truly brought a warm light to my day. I encourage each of you to consider meeting a friend for a meal at one of our many delicious restaurants and have a heart-to-heart conversation about something that makes you light up inside. Lynn and I shared a great conversation about the past, present, and future. We discovered that we share a remarkable number of similarities, including that we enjoy walking on the Panhandle Pathway during the summer months. What I found most inspiring about Lynn is how deeply she loves the place she calls home. Just before leaving, I asked her, “Do you think you’ll ever leave, and maybe go somewhere warmer? Even for the winter?” Lynn immediately shook her head and told me, “No. We love it here. I love it here. Everything I need is right here.” After hearing Lynn’s story and feeling the love she has for our community, I fully understand why she plans to spend the rest of her life in the place that turned her from a transplant into a blossoming permanent fixture.