Remembering – Dianne Siler Edwards

We, the ABOUT staff, wanted to honor our founder, mentor, and friend, but we struggled mightily with just the right way to do it. Anyone that knew Dianne knows that she would never go for a story all about her. Dianne Siler was born blah, blah, blah…. (Can’t you hear her saying that?) So, with much deliberation, we decided to let the community tell her story with their words.

After all, what better way to know Dianne than through her impact on the folks that called her friend.

CHRISTINE WOJTKOWSKI: Dianne had the ability to make instant connections with people. From the first time I met her, it just seemed like we had always known each other and been friends.

KECHIA BENTLEY: Dianne, you were the reason I could write; you were my anchor. You, my dear, were what I call a “God thing” in my life. I couldn’t have written a script wild enough to have you just one day, out of the blue, ask me to write for your magazine.

JOHNNA WALKER: I first met Dianne in 1978 in a journalism class at Arkansas Tech University. We hit it off immediately and became fast friends and were friends ever since. If my math is correct, that is 35 years! We had many fun adventures throughout those years.

KECHIA BENTLEY: Nolan, Dianne’s husband, told me it was time for me to learn what Dianne had tried to teach me, to study how she edited my work and then make myself a better writer. Well, there is a part of me that just doesn’t want to do that because that would just be another moment of realizing Dianne is gone, and I am on my own in this writing thing.

VAN TYSON: Dianne Edwards was the kind of student who made teaching worthwhile. She was Dianne Siler when I taught her journalism at Tech. As a student she did what was asked of her readily, because she enjoyed doing things well. But she didn’t stop there. She was the rare student who also looked for more work to do to enhance her learning experience.

VONNA MARPEL: It was an honor to call Dianne my friend. She was such an amazing and admirable mentor, confidant, and boss.

CHRIS ZIMMERMAN: When I first decided to go to school to become a graphic designer, my dad asked me what I’d do with that degree in these parts. I didn’t have much of a plan then, but I told him I could work at the local newspaper. My mom chimed in and said “Dianne Edwards works there. You remember her, don’t you?” I don’t know why that exchange has stuck with me nearly 18 years later, but it has, probably because Dianne became such a big part of my career. Looking back, of the three jobs I’ve held as a graphic designer, I worked alongside Dianne at each. She was influential in taking two of those jobs, and probably an indirect influence on me taking that first job with the newspaper. It wasn’t until I began working with her on ABOUT that I really got to know her though.

JOHNNY SAIN: I remember accusing Dianne of being a softy one time. The look in her eye told me I was mistaken long before the words came out of her mouth. “You just keep thinking I’m nice,” she said. Then she smiled her sweetest Dianne smile, “Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to never see the other side.”

CHRISTINE WOJTKOWSKI: She was optimistic and enthusiastic about everything, and just made everyone around her feel important. I only knew her for a short time before she got sick, but her impact on me will be life-long. I feel very fortunate to have had her in my life, and remember her for the kind hearted, hard working, dedicated, loving, and spunky woman that she was.

KECHIA BENTLEY: I was safe because you were here. I knew you would keep me on track. I knew you would fix my mistakes. You made me believe I could do it. Just spending time with you made me believe everything would work out just fine, and not just with writing but with my boys, my work, and even with the crazy pace of everyday life. You had a resolve about you that made us believe just about anything was possible.

VAN TYSON: An example was column writing. She asked, and I readily agreed to supervise a special problem in column writing. As a result, she wrote a column every week, which I critiqued. There never was much wrong, maybe my own preference for focus or organization. Typical of Dianne, she accepted my critiques as constructive and heeded most of the points in future columns. There were some exceptions, in which she insisted on her choices, and I accepted those as valid expressions of her creativity and independence. That project was so impressive that I saved it in a folder, which emerged recently in my searches through boxes of material from my Tech years.

BETSY MCGUIREShe was a friend and a mentor to so many that knew her and benefitted from her caring nature. She helped us discover what our community was about by making sure that the stories were told that we might not otherwise have the opportunity to know. She loved her community and supported the things she believed in as she demonstrated by her ardent support of Main Street Russellville and the renewing of our Downtown.

VONNA MARPEL: Family was always most important, and always came first. If I can be just a bit like Dianne, I will have accomplished a very huge goal.

CHRIS ZIMMERMAN: When I left The Courier, Dianne was quick to open another door to the next part of my career. When I was ready to move on, there she was holding the door open to the next. I can’t reiterate enough how big a part of my career, and my life, that she was. I owe a great deal to her for where I am today.

JOHNNA WALKER: Speaking about Dianne in the past seems so very odd to me. She is still a friend on Facebook. She is still a contact on my cell phone. Dianne was my friend for most of my life.

VAN TYSON: People who have read her columns in the ABOUT magazine have seen that she developed into a creative and insightful columnist. I was particularly moved as well as impressed with the column she wrote about me in the issue that focused on mine and Ginnie’s work at The Atkins Chronicle. This was during the time she was dealing with her terminal disease.

VONNA MARPEL: Dianne and I always looked forward to serving in the Coke booth at Taste of the Valley, it always ended up being a ton of fun, not work.

KECHIA BENTLEY: You drew people to you; not in some loud flamboyant way that I seem to do, but in a strong, kind, and gracious way. Everyone talks about your graciousness and kindness, but I don’t want anyone to, for one minute, think of you as some soft, bunny-like creature. You were a force to be reckoned with. You stood by your convictions and you believed in your dreams.

VIRGINIA TYSON: Dianne seemed to me perfectly suited to be the person behind ABOUT…the River Valley magazine. Her interest in the community and in the people working to improve it always seemed natural and genuine. She was unfailingly gracious.

CHRIS ZIMMERMAN: It can be hard to find that someone who you can just talk to…about anything. When you’re lucky enough to find someone who cannot only share in the experiences of your life, but has been there and can help give you guidance as well, then I think that’s something special. That’s who Dianne was to me. We always had a professional relationship, but she was more friend than anything.

JOHNNA WALKER: Several years following our days at Tech, Dianne was working at The Courier newspaper and I had a public relations job for a local agency. Not to sound ancient, but back then, Clip Art was exactly that. If you wanted a picture to use in a newsletter, you had to go to the newspaper office and dig through a gigantic book until you found what you wanted and actually cut it out and take it with you! I didn’t mind because this gigantic book was close to Dianne’s desk and we always took an opportunity to chat. She was already a mom to Laura and Stephanie at this time. One day I went to her office and plopped down in a chair and announced, “Well Dianne, I think I am pregnant!” She said, “Well, I think I am too!” I was in shock! Consequently, her daughter Melissa and my son Will were born just a few weeks apart. A side bar to that story is that we had signed up to join a fitness center but immediately quit because we were going to get fat anyway, so we didn’t see the point of meeting there at 5:00 a.m. each day as originally planned!

VONNA MARPEL: I remember two of my kids were sick, and I was frantic to get my mother in law to stay with them. Dianne reassured me it was ok to stay home with them, and reminded me family always came first.

KECHIA BENTLEY: What blows my mind is you never seemed afraid. I can remember you saying, more than once, “gotta get your big girl panties on, and get out there and do it.”
JOHNNY SAIN: I knew Dianne for only three years, but she was and continues to be a profound influence in my life and career.

CHRIS ZIMMERMAN: Years bac, at a potluck at The Courier, shehad brought a pan of cornbread that I thought was just perfect. I was sure to let her know as well! From that day on, every birthday, Dianne made it a point to bring me a pan of her cornbread.
VAN TYSON: As others have said, she was not only an excellent journalist, in her work at The Courier as well as ABOUT, but also a wonderful human being, as evidenced by her devotion to her family and her courage in dealing with the agony of cancer.

KECHIA BENTLEY: And oh, I loved how you made me laugh. You always saw the humor in every situation. Sometimes we laughed even when we shouldn’t have. While I would stand there thinking, “That person is crazy,” you would say, “Well bless their heart,” and really mean it! Whatever we did, the Chamber Expos, Main Street Russellville, the Coke booth at Taste of the Valley, the Chili Cook Off, Charity Ball, it was always better because you were there. Yes, my dear YOU were fun, but you and Nolan together were even better. I loved being with the two of you. There was always something mischievous about you two. I never had to drag Donald anywhere if he knew Nolan was going to be there too. We had so much fun hanging out with you both.

VONNA MARPEL: If I ever needed help with ‘a play on words’ for an ad, Dianne always had the perfect answer.

JOHNNA WALKER: One day out of the blue, Dianne told me I should join Junior Auxiliary. She said, “we mostly do things in schools and you are at the school all the time anyway, so why not?” I thought – well, OK, I guess it could be fun. Dianne put me up for membership and we served side by side in the Russellville chapter for many, many years. She was right, we did have fun, and I’m still involved with Junior Auxiliary today. It’s ended up being a big part of my life and I would have never known about it if Dianne hadn’t invited me to join.

CHRIS ZIMMERMAN: Along the topic of food, I’m also a very picky eater, and she knew that. We would often visit Dixie Cafe for lunch to discuss the magazine, and life in general. My favorite dish was chicken parmesan, so much that I’d get it nearly every time we visited. When we would have those same meetings ather home, she always insisted on cooking for me. I’ll give you one guess what she would make me every time. To me, it was just a tasty meal, to her it meant a way to make me comfortable.

VONNA MARPEL: Nolan, Dianne, Junior and I had a great time bringing back our youth at the Jimmy Buffet concert. We had a pre-picnic, and Dianne flipped over in her chair. We had a good laugh and thank God she wasn’t hurt.

JOHNNA WALKER: Another thing Dianne invited me to was the THANK GOODNESS IT’S THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL BREAKFAST at Stoby’s. She invited me and I didn’t know many of the ladies, but it didn’t matter. We were doing the Happy Happy Joy Joy dance because it was that magical day in August when the little kiddos returned to school! I attended several of these fun breakfasts!

KECHIA BENTLEY: Like so many, we are left wishing we had done it more often. We should have made time, all those times we said, “let’s get together soon.” Soon is gone and I am left with the regret of not having more memories of you.

CHERYL PLEDGER, GIFTS ON PARKWAY: She was a lovely person and even though I knew her only professionally, I have thought of her many times since her passing. I simply miss her and can’t quite believe she won’t be around.

CHRIS ZIMMERMAN: I could go on and on about the wisdom that she passed to me on a daily basis in our chats. If only I could remember it all. I had a lifetime of experience and knowledge right there in front of me that I could have learned so much more from, and I regret not having done so. It’s cliché, but life is short. I never expected to be here today in this position, nor did she in hers, or her family in theirs.

KECHIA BENTLEY: I will think of you and talk of you for the rest of my life. You have woven yourself into my life story in a way that you can never be removed without removing a part of who I am. I wish I had told you that while you were still here. I only hope that somehow in heaven you are allowed to know all the good you have done in my life and each of the lives of those who loved you.

JOHNNA WALKER: When Nolan and Dianne started the magazine, I contributed a few stories here and there. This didn’t really last very long because to write the stories, you actually have to get dressed, leave the house, go talk to someone, take some photos, check facts and then write the story. It was exhausting! I am extremely lazy, so I didn’t take to that very well. Also, I always felt like Dianne’s deadlines were more like suggestions! Then, I had this great idea. Dianne couldn’t attend all of the social events she was invited to, so I told her I would go to some of them and bring back a report. I did this a few times. She was such a great writer that once I literally brought back a brochure and three photos and she wrote a lovely, full-page story about the event!

CHRIS ZIMMERMAN: When opportunity presents itself, you have to grab it. From the professional to the personal, that was something that Dianne always encouraged in me, and that I’ll always carry with me as well. I regret that I missed the opportunity to learn more from Dianne, to listen closer, to pry just a little deeper. It’s for selfish reasons I know, but also because I realize the chances of that kind of relationship, built on respect, longevity and admiration, is something I’ll like not find again in my life.

VAN TYSON: I am still saddened at her death. It was great loss to the field of journalism as well as those of us who loved her.

JOHNNA WALKER: Dianne and I served on several Chamber of Commerce committees together and most recently, we were on the Chamber Board. We sat in the same seats at every meeting, once a month for two years. No one else ever sat there because they were our seats. For those of you who do not know this, the Russellville Chamber Board meets at the ridiculous hour of 7:30 a.m.! Dianne would arrive dressed professionally, not a hair out of place, make-up looking good, ready for her day. I would just sort of be there. I think I might have said more than once, “Dianne, really, do not look at me or speak to me until I have finished this entire cup of coffee!” Being the great pal she was, she always cooperated!

CRISTY MILLER: I miss her laugh and quirky humor. And her tenderness for others. She always wanted to make sure that no one was left out. She was truly from the old south with the graciousness that is lived out.

KECHIA BENTLEY: I will never write a word for the rest of my life that I don’t think of Dianne Edwards. And folks, considering that my next story is about lingerie and a church yard sale some of you may want to question her judgment.

THE STAFF AT GRIFFIN ELECTRIC HEAT & AIR, INC.: We loved and respected Dianne, and we miss her a great deal.

JOHNNA WALKER: My husband, R.D., said Dianne really did have a nose for news. She pretty much knew everything that was going on in Russellville and the River Valley. I’m not exactly sure how she did that. It was actually sort of amazing. I sent her many texts and emails through the years that read something like, “I know you know what’s going on with blah, blah, blah, now spill it!” As another dear friend Christy Miller said, “Dianne had the good sense to only tell you the things that were already out and to not tell you the things that were still under wraps!” Dianne knew that I could NOT keep a secret!

BILL PETERS: Dianne Edwards made her mark in the River Valley. She had a dream of presenting her positive perception of the River Valley in the form of a magazine. By surrounding herself with quality, dedicated people and with hard work and leadership, she fulfilled that dream with ABOUT Magazine. She believed in Russellville and the people in the area. She saw “the positive” in virtually everyone. I never heard her say a negative thing about any person. She was an encouraging influence for our downtown and for the entire River Valley. She will not be forgotten, but she will be missed.

JOHNNA WALKER: I could go on and on with stories about Dianne and me, our adventures and misadventures through the years, but I won’t. I had a wonderful friendship with Dianne, as did so many others. Perhaps it was because of her many years of interviewing people, but Dianne was the best listener I’ve ever known. When you were talking to Dianne, she made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. That is not something many people can do. I feel blessed to have called Dianne a friend for so many years. I grieve for her precious family who lost her much too soon. I guess I need to remove her from my Facebook account and from my phone. Maybe someday, but not just yet.

BETSY MCGUIRE: She was my friend.

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