Gloria Ruth Johnson Darden died on Jan. 28th, her late husband’s birthday. She was 90.

Gloria was born April 4, 1927 at Good Samaritan-Waverly Hospital in Columbia, S.C. That hospital was special to her family because it was the first African American hospital in South Carolina. It was founded in 1924 by her uncles, Dr. Norman A. Jenkins and his four brothers. The family donated many capital gifts to Benedict College and Allen University in Columbia.

Gloria was the only child born to Ruth Watson Johnson Delorme and Theodore Johnson. She spent her elementary and high school years in Columbia. She finished Booker T. Washington High School at the age of 16, went to Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., and graduated from Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

At Fisk she met her life partner, Dr. Alvin Darden of Shelbyville, Ind. They became known as Buttercup and Fuddles and raised five children in Cincinnati, Ohio.

During her 90 years she was a mom, educator, and community leader. She had a profound and long-lasting impact on her children. She taught them lessons of love, shaped their consciences, and enforced loyalty, devotion, dignity and commitment, all the values that made them who they are today. She made all her children feel special in their unique way, but she was amazing at reassuring the loving presence to everyone and anyone she came in contact with.

She was active in the Cincinnati community during the Civil Rights era. Life Magazine honored her for her community organizing efforts. In 1959, she began her career in education. She taught special education at Dyer School from 1972 to 1984, and then moved to Princeton High School from 1975 to 1996, where she taught Advanced Placement English.

After her husband passed in 1995 and her retirement, she moved to Martha’s Vineyard. She became an assistant teacher in the special needs department at Oak Bluffs school. Caring for a single special needs student from kindergarten through the eighth grade, Mark became “one of hers.” She retired from Oak Bluffs school in 2009.

She served in many civic and social organizations including Cincinnati chapter of Links Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Girlfriends, charter member of Sophisticates, and Martha’s Vineyard NAACP. Her household was filled with love of the arts. This exposure allowed her children to communicate across cultures in a universal language and understand each other in different ways. Philosophy became a passion in her later life, often teaching from Camus, Kafka, and Dostoyevsky. Like them, she morphed into becoming a constant thinker.

Gloria was preceded in death by her mother, Ruth Watson; her father, Theodore Johnson; her stepfather, Leone DeLorme; her husband, Dr. Alvin Darden; and daughter Lisa Darden Cash. She will be lovingly remembered by her children: Janice and her husband Leo, Alvin 3rd and his wife Truddie, Michael and his wife Karen, and Lori; her grandchildren and their spouses: Oman and Naimah, Kairi and Stephanie, Sakina and Drew, Cortni and Devon, Wesley and Shannon, Kofi and Karen, Asil and Amy, Jade and Leanne, and Kelsey, Alvin 4th (Kip), Greer and Drew; and her great-grandchildren: Suriyah, Uchenna, Jackson, Amir, Ava, Adam, Kyla, Laia, Meia, Harper-Lisa, Jozy, Tyson and Cameron.

She leaves behind a host of nieces and nephews, Charles S. Johnson and his wife Saundra, Dr. Winifred Johnson, the Jackie Williams family and many others active in her life. She will be dearly missed by her “besties,” Marion, Gerry, Yvonne, Rosie (deceased), and Harvenna.

Special thanks are given to all caregivers, Sue Burgoyne in Massachusetts, June, Peaches, Geova at Brookdale Vinnings and the staff at AG Rhodes rehabilitation center. She loved them all. Her smile, hugs, laughter and use of “la de da” will forever be in the hearts of her children and grandchildren to carry on.

Gloria will be interned with her husband in Cincinnati, Ohio in a small graveside service on Saturday, Feb. 24. A celebration of her beautiful life will continue at 3 p.m. at the Cincinnati Art Museum in the Castellini Foundation Room, 953 Eden Park Drive.