Lifelong learner and educator, librarian, advocate, reader, historian, conservationist. Lover of music, art, children, dance, travel, nature, and fishing. And lover of new places and all people.
SOUTH HERO – Diane H. Leyden, 70, of South Hero, Vt., passed to the other side on June 18 with her husband and daughter by her side channeling messages of love from family and friends. Her five-year battle with frontotemporal dementia ended with a seven-month stay at the Residence at Shelburne Bay.
Born on August 28, 1949 in Rockville Center, N.Y., Diane grew up in Long Island with her two sisters, Jan and Barbara and brothers Joe and Jerry. “Big brother” Joe passed at an early age before Diane was born, but who’s life story and memory was always a part of her growing up. Diane was raised by two hardworking parents who prized respect, activity and getting outdoors (walks on the beach even during the winter!), and maintaining family connections. Her father, the chief of police, would come home from a day’s work and mother would leave for her overnight shift at the phone company leaving the kids to prepare the dinner meal. All this in order to raise enough money to send their three girls and two boys to college. After graduating from St. Agnes high school Diane attended college at Marquette University and SUNY at Stony Brook achieving a BA in Education, she later achieved a Master’s Degree in Library Science through a distance learning program with Syracuse University from her home in Vermont.
Diane was first a student teacher from SUNY (Stony Brook) and then later hired by Dick Leyden as a full-time teacher at a progressive ungraded school, The Bay Community School, in Bellport, Long Island. Diane and Dick were married on Dec. 23, 1972 during a winter school recess in an old colonial church in Bayport, N.Y. made famous by Daniel Webster. After three years teaching together on Long Island they moved to Vermont. Diane was employed at South Hero’s Folsom Elementary (1975 – 1977) and Georgia Elementary and Middle School (1977 – 2008). Diane was hired by South Hero because they needed someone who could be both kindergarten teacher as well as the combined school and town librarian. After three years at Bay Community School, she was uniquely qualified for this job description. After three years at Folsom School, Diane was recruited to be the librarian of the largest elementary/middle school in Vermont. She held that position in Georgia until her retirement. In the early Vermont years Diane and Dick rented and worked in the Champlain Islands during the school year and traveled, camped, and fished across the United States and Canada during the summer months. In 1978, conversations with local friends in South Hero led them to a special pasture overlooking Lake Champlain where (pregnant with their first daughter) they camped and built a passive solar house for themselves and children Erica and Geoffrey. South Hero has been home ever since.
Diane’s life included struggle but she always found the beautiful moments of human connection only realized by imperfect situations to stabilize her. A favorite saying from her father she often quoted,
“It’s easy enough to be pleasant when life goes along like a song, but a man worth his while, is one who can smile, when everything goes dead wrong.”
Diane’s energy touched the lives of so many and she will be remembered uniquely in the heart and mind of each. She will be remembered each time we find courage to advocate for others instead of being popular, each time we put the health of our future above the convenience of the present, and each time we tell a child a story so they may grow their own character informed by the past yet excited by the future. As a final gift, Diane donated her brain to the Mayo Clinic via the Brain Support Network to arm her family with information about her illness and to help researchers learn more about dementia and frontotemporal dementia.
Diane is survived by her husband of 47 years Dick Leyden, son Geoffrey, daughter Erica, son-in law Ben, grand-girls Alexandria and Clara, sisters Jan and Barbara, brothers Joe and Jerry, fabulous nieces and nephews and their children. She will join the deceased, parents Dorothy and Joe Hoffmann, in-laws Donald and Marian Leyden and sister in-law Lois Hoffmann. Visit https://www.mykeeper.com/profile/DianeLeyden to learn more about Diane and offer a tribute story or photo for us to secure in a bound book to span the distance between now and her celebration of life.
There will be no public services. A private celebration of life with family and friends will be held in Vermont sometime next Spring/Summer. The family would like to thank Kathrine Acus and the multi-talented care team at Bayada Hospice and Lydia Raymond and her care team at the Residence. In lieu of cut flowers, consider a donation in Diane’s honor to Central Vermont Trout Unlimited, 522 Harbor View Drive, Saint Albans, VT 05478 to support the Trout in the Classroom program.