It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dianne Willena (Williams) Campbell in Sidney, BC, on Thursday, August 20, 2020 at the age of 86. Given the COVID situation, we have decided not to hold a service at this time. Instead we hope you will read and enjoy this tribute to Dianne’s life.
Dianne was born in Lethbridge, AB, on July 22, 1934, the only child of Jessie (nee McLean) and William “Henry” Williams. She loved to tell stories of her happy times in Lethbridge, where her adventurous nature began to make itself known. One day, six year old Dianne walked herself down to the local radio station and requested to sing her favourite song live on the radio – “Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy” was heard on radios throughout the town that day. There were other songs on other days and the odd piano recital. Dianne had a way of charming people with her kindness and conversation, a trait that served her well throughout her days.
In Grade 4, after brief periods in Calgary and Wetaskiwin, Dianne and her parents moved to Edmonton. There, the family settled into the city that would be Dianne’s home until well into her 20s. It was during these years that Dianne had several life defining moments. Her mother, Jessie, lost her battle with Multiple Sclerosis when Dianne was only 12; and less than 2 years later, her father, Henry, a train engineer with CP Rail, died when the train he was driving went off the tracks. Henry had managed to survive a bullet wound sustained in the battle for Vimy Ridge in WWI, but he was no match for a poorly designed stretch of track that was the site of 2 other train derailments before it was repaired. So, at 14 years of age, Dianne was an orphan.
Although she never really got over the loss of her parents, Dianne had the very good fortune to have her loving grandparents, Willena (nee Beaton) and Thomas McLean move into the family home to care for her. Dianne so loved her Gram and Grampa, and she cared for Gram in later years, moving her in with our young family to help care for her after Grampa passed.
Another life changing moment came in Dianne’s grade 6 Sunday School class. There she first met her future husband and the love of her life, William “Bill” Campbell. Mom and Dad didn’t start dating until the end of their years at Strathcona High School, “Scona” as they called it, but she liked to tease that she remembered him from that Sunday School class because he was “naughty”. Dad said Mom was the “prettiest girl in the school”, and Mom said Dad was “the nicest boy in the school”.
The Scona years were formative for both Dianne and Bill. There they found a group of lifelong friends that endures to this day. They came to recognize themselves as the Survivors, owing to the tragedy and hardship that informed all their lives in some fashion, and bound them together with a special depth of caring. It seemed we couldn’t go anywhere with Mom and Dad that they didn’t run into someone from Scona.
After high school, Dianne began work at AGT (Alberta Government Telephones), now Telus, in the bookkeeping department. We always teased Mom that she would have been a Vice President there if she hadn’t left to have kids while Dad pursued his university studies in medicine, at University of Alberta and elsewhere. The truth is, they asked her to come back part time after she had her first 2 kids; an unprecedented offer at that time, and a testament to how valued she was as an employee. Several years and 4 kids later, after stints in Cleveland and Flint, Dad did his post graduate training in Otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Although Mom had given up her paid work, Dad knew that she was working even harder than he was, looking after 4 kids ranging in age from 5 to a newborn, and caring for her ailing grandmother. All this while trying to get by on $129 per month, before the rent was paid!
The opportunity for Bill to head up the ENT department at the new Foothills Hospital in Calgary brought Dianne and Bill back to Canada, with Billy, Dougie, Jeffrey and Janie in tow. The family had many happy years and developed strong relationships within the community of Willow Park where Dianne and Bill purchased their first family home. Mom was always happiest with a house full of people, and was welcoming to all our friends, whether at home in Calgary or at the condo in Windermere. There were too many parties to count and almost always a theme to get the party off on the right foot.
With the kids finished university and starting lives of their own, Dianne and Bill were on the move again. Vancouver Island beckoned and it stole their hearts. Mom was able to pursue her newly discovered passion for tole painting, as Dad adjusted to a slower pace in his medical practice. Annual visits by the grandkids to stay with Nama and Grandad were the highlight of the year. Nama always signed the kids up for their camps of choice and loved to drop them off and pick them up each day, relishing in every shared moment from the day. Even while living on the island, Mom and Dad always found a way to make it back to Calgary for every band concert, playoff game, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas, birthday party; if it was important, they were there.
While initially reluctant to leave Calgary, Dianne grew to love their simple life in Sidney, BC. She would always suggest that you had to say hello to at least 3 people on the walk to Timmy’s (Tim Horton’s to the uninitiated!), and 3 people on the way home. Her routine included almost daily visits to her favourite coffee shops and restaurants, where everyone knew her. She had the sunniest disposition and loved nothing better than to strike up a conversation with just about anyone, just about anywhere, usually to share a story of her children or grandchildren, of whom she was incredibly proud.
Mom never wanted much for herself. She wasn’t about fancy clothes or jewelry, she never wore make up (and still looked so beautiful) and wasn’t the type to go to a spa to get pampered, she wasn’t bothered about what she drove or the hotels they stayed in when they traveled, which she loved to do. Mom reveled in the little things – a phone call out of the blue, a pleasant afternoon spent painting something special for someone special, time spent preparing the annual calendar for her family and friends with the important dates specially captured just for each of us. She loved her dogs Lady and Muffin, and all of her Grandogs, many of whom we are sure were waiting for her with tails wagging.
The COVID pandemic created some real challenges in caring for Mom, but strangely, it ended up being a blessing in a sense. In order to help Dad care for Mom in her final months, our brother Bill selflessly moved into Shoal Centre in Sidney with them for several months. He looked after both Mom and Dad around the clock, not just managing the day to day needs, but giving Mom the attention and care she loved and would not otherwise have had, and being a soft place for Dad to escape from the harsh realities of Mom’s steady decline. For that, the family will be endlessly grateful.
Although vascular dementia took her mind before it took her body, it never took her beautiful spirit. Even near the end, the thoughtful caregivers at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Broadmead, where Dianne spent her final days, commented on how happy and gentle she was.
Dianne will be so dearly missed by her loving husband Bill, her sons William “Bill” (Monique), Douglas (Charlene), Jeffrey (Leanne), and daughter Jane Ann “Janie” (Travis); as well as by her much loved grandkids McLean (Vivian), Taylor (Tina), Riley, Dani, Liam, and Bryn.
Thank you all for your love and support during this difficult time. As Mom liked to remind us nearly every time we talked to her, “It’s a good life”. In lieu of flowers and gifts, please consider giving to the Salvation Army, a cause dear to Mom’s heart; and try saying hello to 3 strangers you pass today, it’s a gift that costs nothing and can brighten a day.
Rest In Peace, Mom. Heaven will be a happier place with you in it. Love will endure.