Della Schlecht

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Della Martha Schlecht, 79, of Tonto Basin, Ariz. died Jan. 1, 2001, in Tonto Basin. She was born Nov. 12, 1921, to John and Josie Surrett on their ranch near Mayer, Ariz.

In her younger years, she joined her siblings in tending to ranching chores working the cattle when she wasn't in school. She graduated from Mayer High School and moved to Washington, D.C. to live with an older sister.

After graduating with honors from a Washington secretarial school, she applied for a federal job in the Treasury Department personnel section. She was denied employment at first because of her young age, but she persevered and was finally accepted. She worked at the Treasury Department until the end of World War II, when she became employed at Luke Air Force Base near Glendale, Ariz.

When Luke Field was closed, Mrs. Schlecht transferred to the Naval Air Facility in Litchfield Park, Ariz., which also was shutting down. After that base closed, Mrs. Schlecht transferred in 1952 to the Phoenix Area Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. By the time she retired in 1976, she had advanced to the position of supervisory personnel staffing specialist, and was granted the Meritorious Service Award of the Department of the Interior for her achievements.

After retiring, Mrs. Schlecht and her husband, Barney, spent time at their forest cabin near Kohl's Ranch northeast of Payson, and their winters at their mobile home in the Mad-As-Hell Park in Tonto Basin.

Survivors include two grandsons, Jason and Justin Schlecht; three sisters, Ellen Tolle of Phoenix, Edgel Bennett of Mayer, Ariz. and Mary Davis of Glendale, Ariz.; brothers, Walter Surrett of Tonto Basin and Herbert Surrett of Prescott Valley, Ariz.; 13 nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Barney.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, 2929 E. Thomas Road, Phoenix, AZ 85016.

Arrangements were handled by Messinger Payson Funeral Home.

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