Diane Leyden

August 28th, 1949 - June 18th, 2020

Biography


Diane H. Leyden, 1949 – 2020


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.


Diane H. Leyden, 70, of South Hero VT passed to the other side on June 18th with her husband and daughter by her side channeling messages of love from family and friends. Her 5 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, NY 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 3 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 be the combined school and town librarian, after 3 years at Bay Community School she was uniquely qualified for this job description.  After 3 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.


Words cannot convey how fully Diane embodied the role of teacher in her personal and professional life. She was an artist at marrying stories and facts and information to impart a lesson.  She would always seek to use hands-on experience, her goal always to leave the world a better place than she found it for future generations. In the library she worked hard to create a vibrant library space for curious minds with live animals; bringing in elders from the community to be mentors, readers, and aids ; and order the best of books from across the globe. Outside of the library her tenacity for seeding lessons and learning was no less far-reaching. Family trips (often made with dear family friends The Wheelers )were well planned to visit historical sites. Sexist comments were always addressed (with her kids present), and children were always encouraged to ask questions and to always order for themselves at restaurants! 


Diane was a fierce believer in maintaining connections and traditions. Inspired by her own mother’s request, Diane, with her brothers and sisters, vacationed together every two years with their children and grandchildren. The Hoffmann “family reunion”ended up in Destin, Hawaii, St. John VI, Cape Cod, Yosemite among other places. Diane started the tradition of the family calendar to memorialize the growing treasure trove of family photos and milestone dates as we grew and gifted it to each family member for Christmas until her dementia made the task too difficult and it was passed on to her nephew and niece. (“Family is important.”, “Traditions are meant to be passed.”) 


Diane’s joyous curiosity and dedication to family fit perfectly with Dick Leyden’s side of the family (the Faulkner family centered in Stoddard New Hampshire) where she loved to jump in to participate in their traditions. 


Diane first went fly fishing in 1972 on a camping trip to the Canadian Rockies.  In those early years it was a challenge to embrace the traditions and history that was on the surface elitist and male dominated.  Diane’s father-in-law, a nationally known fly fishing historian went out of his way to make her feel included and taught her “to cast a tight line.”   Things got even better when she was introduced to the conservation group Trout Unlimited, and met so many female anglers.  Diane, whether she was fishing from a kayak casting from shore would always find a way to hook the largest salmon, tarpon, red fish, striped bass of the trip.  And she would do it her way of casting, thank you!


Diane had a strong sense of adventure and she looked for people to share it with. In 1984 she found a tight circle of female friends, “The Ladies Group”  with whom she hiked and  they supported each other through careers, children and her death. From 1985 to 2002 Diane was an organizer and member of the Green Mountain Volunteers dance group, performing traditional New England folk and contra dance locally (Shelburne Museum) and traveling to international festivals in New England, Spain, Ecuador, PEI/Nova Scotia, Belgium/France and Cornwall (ON). 


Diane’s focus shifted immediately to grandchildren as soon as she had the chance – retiring as soon as possible to be with her two grand-girls Alex and Clara. Her grin sharing the latest stories and photos of her time with them was broad and wide – absolutely beaming. She watched the girls each week until they started school and would bring a new bag of inspiration each day to guide their time together. 


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. We look forward to hearing more stories through her tribute page we can secure in a bound book to span the distance between now and a celebration of life next year.


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.

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Family

About

Name Diane Leyden
Date of Birth August 28th, 1949
Date of Death June 18th, 2020
Home Town South Hero, VT, US 
Interests Hiking, Fly fishing, Walking the beach with family, Dancing, Photography, History, Reading, Spending time with family and friends, Anything active and outdoors
Favourite Saying “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.”
In Memoriam Donation Central Vermont Trout Unlimited
Family

Family

ChildrenErica Frost
View Family Tree
Milestone

Milestones

1968 - 1970 Marquette, Education BA
1970 - 1972 SUNY Stony Brook, Education BA
1971 - 1975 Teacher, Bay Community School
1972 Married Dick Leyden
1975 Moved from Long Island, NY to South Hero, VT
1975 - 1977 Kindergarten teacher and Town/School Librarian, Folsom Elementary School
1977 - 2008 Librarian, Georgia Elementary and Middle School
1979 Built South Hero house
1979 Daughter Erica born
1979 - 2020 Amazing Mother, Team Leyden
1981 Son Geoffrey born
1987 Toured Spain with Green Mountain Volunteers dance group (GMV)
1990 Toured Ontario with GMV
1993 Toured Ecuador with GMV
1996 Toured Belgium and France with GMV
1996 Adopted dog Cody (felt guilty for leaving Erica to go to France:)
1997 Toured PEI/Nova Scotia with GMV
1997 - 2002 Co-Director, Green Mountain Volunteers
2004 - 2006 Syracuse University, Library Science MA

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Shelle Myers published a tribute .

A Poem for Diane
By Shelle Myers
Retired Gr.1 GEMS
D• edicated wife, mom, teacher
I• knew her at Georgia School
A• lways curious; knowledgeable
N• ature conservationist
E• ver-prepared and professional
L• librarian extraordinaire
E• ncouraged learning and research
Y• oung creative minds challenged
D• iane- bright and passionate
E• veryone will remember that smile
N• ever forget her legacy!

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Sherri Geimer published a tribute .

I loved dancing with Diane in GMV -- "the music told us what to do"... She was a beautiful dancer. :)

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Alex Lavin published a tribute .

I know the Leyden family through Geoff, my oldest friend. Visiting their home was always an inspiration to lead an authentic life, to do things the old-fashioned way because it is worth it, and to appreciate the wonders all around us.

Diane leaves a strong impression; she had more strength of character than practically anybody I can recall.

She passed too soon, but she not only lived fully, she also took great satisfaction in others doing the same.

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Cindy Little published a tribute .

Diane was such a special friend! She always had a cause she was advocating for and she made sure I knew how to join! We both signed on to work at GEMS the same year - fall of 1977. When I stopped to raise our children, she encouraged me to volunteer in the library so I took her up on that and did if for 10 years until I went back to work! She welcomed my 3 children as infants to come while I volunteered. Linda Strandberg (her assistant), Diane, several other teachers and I would on occasion go out for breakfast together and it was always so much fun. Our conversations never lagged! She talked about her family all of the time and was so proud of them. She loved babysitting for Alex and Clara! Diane left this world a better place, that is for certain. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends at this difficult time. We will never forget Diane!

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Karan Cutler published a comment .

I knew Diane through the Georgia--I was the librarian at Folsom School in South Hero for several years--and enjoyed seeing her when we had "materials review" sessions. Upbeat and welcoming, going to the Georgia library was made nicer by Diane being there. I'm so sorry to learn of her death.

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Armando published a comment .

My thoughts are with Diane and her family during this time. I have many fond memories of working with her and how she improved my teaching by exposing me to the benefits of using the library for my class. GEMS was a special place to work and Diane was a part of that as she helped the entire K-8 system.

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Terry Shaw published a comment .

I met Diane when I joined the GEMS family as the school nurse in 1998. Diane always made me feel welcome. She was a treasure. May your wonderful memories help you through this difficult time.

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Brad King published a comment .

Diane always made me laugh, sometimes even when she didn’t mean to. She made us follow the rules when it came to library ethics. I will remember the good times and miss her much.

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Kim Yousey-Hindes published a tribute .

I enjoyed chatting with Diane every week as we waited for the Porters Point bus to arrive each afternoon. She was a great conversationalist and she sure did love to talk about her family. She was so proud of you, Erica, and Alex and Clara too. May she rest in peace.

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Darlene Mercier published a tribute .

I met Diane just once at Kate and Jason's wedding. How lucky was I to be included in pre-wedding celebration! Erica-your Mom was so welcoming, so vivacious and happy. Your family was truly blessed! Condolences to your family.

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