Gretchen Tarchinski remembered for her unceasing willingness to help others less fortunate

By Frank Weir

Legal News

Funeral services were held last Saturday for Gretchen Tarchinski, a long-time volunteer and employee with legal agencies in Ann Arbor.

Born on April 18, 1939, she graduated from Macalester College with a bachelor's degree in political science.

After moving to Ann Arbor, she worked in the George Wahr Sallade Law Offices, for Legal Services of Southeastern Michigan, which is now South Central Michigan, and for the Washtenaw County Public Defender's office.

Chief Public Defender Lloyd Powell gave the eulogy at the funeral and noted that, "I will always remember Gretchen's smile and her willingness to give to others whom she deemed less fortunate, although she herself was of limited financial means.

"In battling cancer over the years, Gretchen continued to work right up to the end and found great fulfillment in doing so."

Powell said that Tarchinski applied to work for him in the year 2000 after working for legal services here. She was referred to Powell by an attorney on his staff who had worked with her at legal services.

"Gretchen noted on her initial application that she was particularly interested in county government as her very first job was for Ramsey County government in St. Paul, MN and that she worked as campaign coordinator for longtime Washtenaw County Commissioner, Ray Shoultz, now deceased," Powell remembered.

"She further stated: 'I have a personal commitment to help the poor, the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, and welcome the opportunity to work in an area that furthers this goal.'"

Powell said Tarchinski "exemplified great courage, strength of character, coping skills, fortitude and perseverance and could always be depended upon to provide a top quality work product and stay the course regardless of how difficult it became for her in confronting her affliction and physical disability."

Powell added that he and Tarchinski worked together when she assisted him in coordinating his volunteer work with "aspiring high school scholars through the Optimist Club."

"She was a warm, open and friendly person and interacting with her was always pleasant. Gretchen was a gentle soul. She loved learning, and took classes at Washtenaw Community College up until the time that her illness was deemed terminal.

"She loved her daughter Josie, who is developmentally disabled and survives her, and took great care of her. Gretchen was an ardent believer in animal rights and the proud owner of dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs."

In addition to her paid employment with legal services and the public defender's office, Tarchinski also volunteered extensively, always with the goal of helping those less fortunate, Powell said.

Her volunteer work encompassed membership on the Washtenaw County Board of Canvassers beginning in 1979. She was very involved with the Sunday School ministry at St. Paul's Lutheran church and was the Secretary of the Washtenaw County Democratic Committee.

She also worked as a volunteer at the Shelter for the Homeless and Project Transition, prior to the development of the Delonis Center.

"She truly believed in social justice," Powell said. "She will always be an inspiration to us and we will miss her so much."

Published: Thu, Jun 2, 2011