Imagine a person who was nearly always cheerful, accepting, with a calming presence. One who inspires wonder and excitement in the smallest matters.
Well, that was our mom, Diana. I’m Vicky, and our family, our dad Bernard, Louise, Raymond and Sarah, along with 8 grandchildren and a great-grandchild, are grateful that you are sharing this tribute with us.
Diana was born on December 22, 1934, in Seattle, Washington. Her father, Bert Whitcomb, hailed from a large family in Hayden, Indiana and was stationed in Seattle as a seagoing Marine when he met Diana’s mother, Kathleen Elizabeth McLeod, who was studying the theater there as an aspiring actress. Her family hailed from Scotland by way of Vancouver, Canada. The family moved to San Francisco in 1937 where her father worked as a lifeguard at Sutro Baths. In1939, her brother David was born, and the family moved to Vallejo, California where her father found work in the Mare Island Shipyards during WWII.
She spoke often of Vallejo- the experiences of going to neighbor’s homes and they would feed her pancakes, friends from all over the world who’s families held parties with so much joy, eating and dancing, that no one cared that the floors were bouncing up and down; playing in the yards where fish hung to dry.
It was in these experiences, coupled with her love of reading, that opened a passion to explore and discover the world, even planning, in detail, a trip to Saudi Arabia with her best friend Milly. She was bitten by the love of learning and adventure, and it was at this time, she developed a love for the world and its people.
After earning her college degree at UC Davis, she moved back to San Francisco and in time, married a young medical student, who she would share her life with for the next 60 years, which I might add, was with his love and support, that she was able to pursue many of her dreams. They moved to Los Angeles, and raised four lovely children (if I may say so), and she continued to grow, pursuing her masters degree in education entering into early childhood education. She continued to foster her love of learning about people, cultures and philosophies through travel, traveling extensively throughout Asia, Mexico and India, learning about their stories, art and food. Books, especially, which she saw as doorways to understanding, were collected in extensive libraries covering art, biographies, history and philosophy.
Her constant and unending delight of children’s stories led to the creation of several beautiful stories: “Fame for the Rajah,” and “How Far is Far.” Not surprisingly, the lessons she conveyed involved teachable moments - the misfortune and folly of living for material greed, and the rewards of being able to see from many vantage points. She worked on a bilingual ABC book, a children’s Mexican Crafts book, Asian Vegetables and Edible Weeds, and studied the topic of Juan Bautista de Anza over several decades with the idea of conveying the notion that the successful journey to establish the inland route between New Spain and California, was a result of his good nature, respect for and cooperation with Indian nations.
She was proactive in the issues that faced us. She advocated for peace, having known the ravages of war through 3 wars in her lifetime. I remember going with her on a bus to a field nearby, and we marched with people who called themselves the United Farmworkers. (She was a firm lettuce boycotter). She worked with the United Nations Association and the UNESCO Club and believed in global cooperation as the key to our survival. She worked on the first curriculum for Alternative education in LAUSD which led to the Area H Alternative School; she worked on preserving the Southwest Museum and its extensive native American collection. the Huntington Gardens and Library, the Sierra Club and was a member of the Anza Society; was one of the original members of the Friends of Children and Literature or FOCAL;
She was an avid plantswoman, studying native and medicinal plants. Not only did she study and collect plants beneficial to native habitat, nutrition and health, she is recognized for introducing a variety of sage to the horticultural community in the US, Salvia melissadora.
Her intense desire to learn, brought her to the benefits of meditation, being aware of the moment, and exploration of our higher purpose, which meshed perfectly with her beliefs, that we are here on the earth to love and nurture life.
I always had the notion, that her birth, on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, propelled her to seek the light throughout her life, seeking the range of colors and intensity in our world, and share it’s knowledge and beauty. But someone else noted, that perhaps that in the darkness, she dedicated her life to be a candle in the world, to share the light of love for the world and all its people. And now, she will remain a candle in the hearts and mind of everyone who came to love her.
In closing, we make two requests- remember the many wonderful moments with Diana, talk about her and and the stories to keep her memory alive; Plant a garden, read a book, make a difference in your community, to keep her spirit alive.