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posted: 1/6/2010 12:01 AM

Roselle school honors teacher who died of cancer

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  • Darlene Fraser leads a Jazzercise demonstration on the stage at Schaumburg's 2009 Septemberfest.

    Darlene Fraser leads a Jazzercise demonstration on the stage at Schaumburg's 2009 Septemberfest.
    Photo courtesy Sue McDunn

By Eileen O. Daday

Pink was the color of the day on Tuesday as students and faculty throughout Roselle Elementary District 12 honored one of their teachers.

Darlene Fraser, a third-grade teacher at Spring Hills School in Roselle, died Saturday after a two-year battle with breast cancer. The Schaumburg resident was 59.

District 12 Superintendent Lori Bein said more than 700 students wrote remembrances of Mrs. Fraser on memory bells that were being compiled in booklets for the family.

Most students remembered her warm smile and encouraging nature, she said.

"She was energetic and quite a personality," Bein said. "She truly loved her students and cared deeply about positively encouraging them in all aspects of their education."

Turns out, Mrs. Fraser had a legion of fans outside the classroom. As a dedicated Jazzercise instructor, last March she won the President's Platinum Award, recognizing her franchise as one of the largest in the state, with more than 4,000 students in the Schaumburg/Roselle area.

Mrs. Fraser herself taught Jazzercise at the Meineke Recreation Center in Schaumburg and the Church of the Cross in Hoffman Estates, but her franchise worked in the Elk Grove, Bartlett, Addison, Bloomingdale and Roselle park districts.

For more than 20 years, Mrs. Fraser was a regular presence on the Daily Herald stage at Septemberfest in Schaumburg, teaching children and adults alike some basic Jazzercise moves.

"Because of Darlene's commitment to me and the Village of Schaumburg I was able to get many other groups to perform following her lead," said Bill Flesch, Septemberfest entertainment chairman.

Dani Gresham, area district executive for Jazzercise International, said Mrs. Fraser and her students always were the largest group at the dance marathons, which raised money for leukemia and breast cancer research, among other causes.

"Where Dar went, her students definitely followed," Gresham said.

She pointed to the Jazzercise for Breast Cancer marathons, where Mrs. Fraser's students raised $3 million over a span of several years. The campaign's proceeds were donated to the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Comprehensive Breast Center where Mrs. Fraser herself was treated.

Mrs. Fraser turned to Jazzercise as an exercise outlet. She was certified as a teacher in 1982, her husband said, and ultimately a franchise owner.

"She sometimes worked 18 hour days, with a full day of teaching and then leading Jazzercise classes," Ray Fraser said. "She was just a go-getter."

Her students thought of Mrs. Fraser as more than an exercise instructor but as a friend and mentor, according to the many tributes posted in her online guest book.

"She inspired each and every one of us to be healthier physically with exercise; and healthier mentally with the 'mental vacation' we would take in each of her classes," says Sue McDunn of Schaumburg. "She truly cared for each and every one of us and we adored her for it."

Besides her husband, Mrs. Fraser is survived by her children, Amy (Nick) Christie and Kurt Fraser; her father, Kenneth (Susan) Brostrom; brother, Dennis (Lynda) Brostrom; and many nieces and nephews.

A funeral service will take place at 10 a.m. today at Grove Memorial Chapel, 1199 S. Arlington Heights Road in Elk Grove Village.