Loretta DeLoach poses by the Taj Mahal during one of her Goodwill Santa Tours.

Loretta DeLoach poses by the Taj Mahal during one of her Goodwill Santa Tours.

Photo provided by Loretta DeLoach

Lathrup honors community activist for turning ‘nine plus zero’

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published September 6, 2023

 DeLoach won a beauty contest held by Michigan Bell Telephone Co. in the 1950s.

DeLoach won a beauty contest held by Michigan Bell Telephone Co. in the 1950s.

Photo provided by Loretta DeLoach

 At the Aug. 21 Lathrup Village City Council meeting, DeLoach received a proclamation from the city honoring her “endless service to others.”

At the Aug. 21 Lathrup Village City Council meeting, DeLoach received a proclamation from the city honoring her “endless service to others.”

Photo provided by Loretta DeLoach


LATHRUP VILLAGE — Dressed in heels no less than 3 inches tall, Loretta DeLoach is not your typical 90-year-old woman.

She’d be the first person to tell you that.

Actually, she’d prefer not to mention the “big nine plus zero,” as she puts it.

Born in 1933 in Highland Park, the youngest of four, DeLoach turned “nine plus zero” Aug. 22.

She attended Highland Park High School, graduating in 1951, and then went on to complete two years of school at Detroit Business College in 1953. DeLoach worked at Michigan Bell Telephone Co. for 35 years. She is the godmother to seven people ranging in age from 28 to 70.

DeLoach declined any celebration in recognition of her milestone birthday and gave her pastor explicit instructions on how to announce her age to the congregation when he had church members born in August stand up.

“Prior to the announcement, he saw me, and he said, ‘Well, Sister DeLoach, we got this milestone coming up. Am I going to announce it?’ I said, ‘No! You’re going to announce it, but I had to tell you how it has to be announced. You can’t say n-i-n-e-t-y, because I don’t want to even hear that. When I hear that, it makes my liver quiver. So I don’t want to hear that. It has to be nine plus zero.’”

Despite DeLoach’s efforts to let her milestone birthday fly under the radar, her large group of friends would not allow it.

On the day of her birthday, she woke up to large letters in her front yard that read, “Happy Birthday Lady D,” a reference to her nickname, “The Queen,” that her card-playing group named her.

The day before her birthday, at the Lathrup Village City Council meeting she received a proclamation from the city honoring her “endless service to others” and dedication to the city she has called home for the past 40 years.

Diane Anderson, a close friend of DeLoach, refused to let this milestone birthday go unmarked. Anderson reached out to Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett and City Council member Bruce Kantor to recognize DeLoach with a proclamation from the city. Kantor’s reaction was similar to most: He was shocked that DeLoach was turning 90.

Anderson met DeLoach when she returned to her hometown of Lathrup Village after living in Australia for 30 years. Anderson’s mother was a member of the Lathrup Village Women’s Club, and by tagging along to the meetings with her mother, she met DeLoach. “I was just as dazzled as my mother was by Loretta. They (the Women’s Club) used to put on fashion shows as one of the things they did to raise money for charity. And Loretta was the model. And she could have been a professional model,” Anderson said. “And the more I get to know her, the more dazzled I am by her.”

DeLoach has faced grief and death many times in her life, starting with her father’s death when she was only 5 years old. When she was 21, her older sister unexpectedly passed away in her sleep. One of her older brothers was injured in the service at age 24, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. Her other brother passed away at 47 after escaping a fire and then returning to the flames to rescue the elderly, disabled couple he lived with.

In her grief, DeLoach turned to faith to get her through these tragic losses.

“God helped me through all of it. Otherwise, I don’t know where I’d be,” she said.

Since her move to Lathrup Village in 1981, DeLoach has remained a dedicated member of the community, filling her schedule with volunteer work.

In 2018, DeLoach assumed the presidency of the Lathrup Village Women’s Club, which was founded in 1939 and is Lathrup’s longest, continuously serving club. DeLoach joined the LVWC in 1992. She has been an active participant in the club’s outreach activities and has inspired members with her efforts, which include:    

• Introducing LVWC members to the Detroit Goodfellows Dress Drive and to the Southfield Goodfellows Gift Tree Program.

• Playing a major role in the 2019 80th anniversary of the LVWC celebrations, including the special anniversary luncheon.

• Organizing past LVWC fashion shows and participating as a model.

• Volunteering for Forgotten Harvest.

• Assisting in Lathrup’s Food Distribution program and back-to-school supplies drives.

• Serving as a community representative on the Lathrup Village Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

• Volunteering to assist with community activities in Lathrup Village, such as Black History Month, Juneteenth, Shop Small Saturday, art fairs, Winterfest, etc.

• Delivering Meals on Wheels to Lathrup Village residents.

DeLoach’s volunteer work is not limited to the Lathrup Village community. Her other community involvement includes marching with Martin Luther King Jr. during his June 1963 March in Detroit.

“I couldn’t get up to the frontline,” DeLoach said. “I got up to the third or fourth row, but I was working my way up there.”

She went on several Goodwill Santa tours abroad dressed as Santa, delivering toys, gifts, etc., to abandoned children in Brazil, Thailand, Japan, India, Peru and Dubai.

She has supported Habitat for Humanity, Focus: HOPE, the Chaldean Metro Youth Day on Belle Isle, local mentorship programs, and mission trips to Haiti.

A Methodist, DeLoach actively volunteers with the Sisters Home Visitors of Mary, who run programs in Nigeria to educate women and teach them to run businesses. They are working to raise funds to purchase a permanent day care center in Nigeria.

As an active member of the Hope United Methodist Church, Loretta volunteers staffing for the Church Mission Ministry. She helps put together food boxes for the food pantry and distributes the food boxes at the church, and occasionally delivers them personally to families in need.

As a certified fashionista with seven closets in her home dedicated to clothing, one of her greatest passions is The Clothes Closet, where she organizes clothing donations. Her friends joke that she acts like she’s working at Nordstrom or Saks Fifth Avenue while she’s volunteering. She also assists with children’s programs, such as the Halloween Pumpkin Patch and the Winter Wonderland.

DeLoach doesn’t let her age define her and never has. She believes being silly is the secret to her longevity.

“I tell people I’m a bit crazy, and I know it. However, I am ahead of most other people because I’m not in denial. I’m ahead of them because I know I am. I just choose not to do anything about it.”