Keeping Alive My Memories of Diane Fien Kelly

Diane BenchThis past weekend we celebrated Diane FIen Kelly’s birthday. She would have been turning 57. So her dear friend Jean Melton lit 57 candles and put them all around her house and threw a big party where we ate, and drank, told stories and jokes, and reconnected with old friends. It was the kind of party that Diane would have liked. I could almost hear her laughing.

Diane plaque

The following day was the dedication of a bench, purchased by our book club in Diane’s honor and memory, positioned on the trail by the USNA stadium trail by her home.  Diane loved to be outside walking on a trail, and her last year on earth she made of point of truly savoring every precious moments, moments that included her two children Brendan and Lauren and her dog Stuart, a rescue from Hurricane Katrina.

Book clubs come in all shapes and sizes, and with a variety of procedures and traditions for choosing books, organizing discussions, and providing food and libations.  While some years Diane was busy with her work, training teachers in the field of special education teaching deaf and blind children, when present at a book club gathering her enthusiasm for our selection (even if she didn’t read the entire book) and for the food being served was always heartfelt.  She was the one who kept asking us to keep a record of the food being served with our selections for a future cookbook. Diane’s big heart and positive approach to just about everything she did was inspiring. She was the kind of person who was always looking out for the “little guy” and the person who when faced with adversity always managed to see the situation in a positive way.

Diane kids

Last week we were asked by her college friends for suggestions of the books which were Diane’s favorites and while initially I thought of her puzzling over Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills , it was Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards which tells the story of the impact of a doctor’s decision to give away his infant daughter at birth because she has Downs Syndrome, that I remember being one of Diane’s favorite books. The doctor in the story assumes his wife will be satisfied raising the daughter’s healthy twin brother and thinking her daughter died at birth, but he’s wrong. Meanwhile his former nurse raises the baby girl as her own in another city and as the years pass memories are not forgotten. That’s all I’m going to say because I certainly do not want to spoil the plot for those who haven’t read the book.

So in closing, if you are walking along the trail around the USNA stadium and want to take a moment to stop and think about your day or listen to the birds and feel the breeze rustle through the trees (There are a few small ones nearby) have a seat. Read the plaque and think of Diane!

Thank you to Eileen Leahy and the Department of Recreation of Park for helping to organize the bench installation.



Remembering Diane Fien Kelly

We all know at least one really nice person, the kind of person who always thinks the best of everyone they meet and who always seems to think of the right things to say at the right time.

Last night the world lost one of the nicest people I’ve had the privilege to call my friend— Diane Fien Kelly. She waged a valiant battle against a virulent form of cancer and now her pain is over, but we who knew her are left with a large hole in our hearts.

Diane was a member of my book club, which I often write about. She will be sorely missed.  A supporting player, she may not have always read everyone’s book selection, but was always asking for everyone’s recipes.(One of these days we probably should create a cookbook). Diane liked to laugh and her smile would light up her face.  She was always the person in the room who wanted to listen to what everyone else had to say, rather than taking center stage. She always made you feel good about any project you told her about, offering supportive advice. In her professional career she worked in Special Education, which fit right in with her desire to help others who needed extra attention and understanding.

Even while undergoing chemo and radiation treatments, instead of feeling sorry for herself, she was still anxious to help others. Last fall while I was recovering from my broken back, Diane came to see me with a home cooked dinner and accompanied me on a walk around my neighborhood— apologizing that she didn’t have more time to spend with me. Who was helping who? As recently as two weeks ago, she still focused her strength on reaching out to friends sending thank you notes. I am inspired by her kindness.

We never got a chance to work out at the gym together. (I kept threatening to take her to my pilates class.) Fate sometime has a way of intervening. But the memory of Diane is very much alive in my mind and in her spirit I will remember her with a renewed dedication to fully appreciate every day as a gift and to learn by her example of small and large kindnesses.