Remembering Diana Kleins 1934-2011

A memorial for Diana, who died at home March 3 after a long illness, was held on Saturday, March 19, 2011.The following was written by Rev. Diane Rollert.

Diana Kleins

The first time I met Diana Kleins, David and I were invited to her house for dinner. It was the summer before my ministry at this church began, and Diana was on the ministerial settlement negotiating team. She greeted us with so much warmth that we were instant friends. Over the years, there was rarely a week that went by without our paths crossing.

Early on, we’d chat when she came to volunteer for telecrew. Then, when Diana became the liaison between the church and the developer next door, she would stop by to commiserate. Throughout the years, I cherished the many Tuesdays when she and Nancy would share their mother-daughter perspectives during our Sacred Stories group. She also became a covenant group facilitator and led a very successful afternoon group. Diana was always a good sport and willing partner in gentle debate.

During the past two years, there were the periodic chats we shared in one hospital room or another. Sometimes I’d leave the hospital fretting that surely Diana couldn’t hold up in her fight against such a powerful cancer. Always a few days later, to my total surprise, I’d find her sitting in the foyer on Sunday morning, smiling and determined to get on with life. She was the miracle woman, who saw each moment of life as something precious. This is how many of us knew her: indomitable, courageous and inspiring.

In her last months, Diana shared much wisdom from her years of service to the church.
In 1987, our Simpson Street building was destroyed by fire just weeks before she was to become president of the board. My favourite story, which she shared with the congregation during the 20-year commemoration of that loss, was Diana standing in front of the church watching it burn when a strange man tried to address her. She had too much on her mind, and was quite short with him in her response. When she turned and looked more carefully, she discovered that the man in question was former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

Diana led the board in making the decision to invest $300,000 in order to restore Channing Hall, the fellowship hall attached to the sanctuary that had remained standing after the fire. It was a difficult decision, she reflected, and not without its critics. But she felt sure that it was better for the congregation to continue meeting in their beloved location, rather than renting elsewhere. Later on, she served on the Project Management Committee to find a new site and to construct the new building. Nine years after the fire, the move to 5035 de Maisonneuve was complete. Diana told me that every church president gets to accomplish one thing, and that is enough. In her case, I’d say, it was ensuring the survival of the community.

I recently came across an e-mail from Diana from May of 2007, as we discussed plans for the commemorative service. She had just returned from the hospital and was happy to report that she had made her first foray out to the Saidye Bronfman theatre that day, after staying home too long fighting cabin fever. “I feel like I'm in prison but it's a nice one with good meals delivered from downstairs & lots of TLC. I'm really behaving myself because I want to avoid that other prison called hospital at all costs!” she wrote.

That was Diana’s dream, to stay home and to be with her family, especially with her precious granddaughter Sarah, the light of her life. When she finally lost her battle with her illness, she let go with much gratitude for the life she had, for her family, for her wonderful marriage with Norman Sirota, for her friends, for this church, for all the many activities that gave her life zest. She will be deeply missed by us all. We have lost a true pillar of this community.