Dr. Diana Roberta McColl

Dr. Diana Roberta Duncan McColl passed away on July 3, 2006.

Diana, as she was known to all, was born in Prince Rupert on November 23, 1938. As a small child she moved with her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Duncan McColl and older sister, Heather, to Queen Charlotte City and then Wells.

During WWII, due to the fear of invasion, the ‘girls’ were sent from Queen Charlotte Island to Ottawa. There they lived with Diana’s grandparents, the Reverend and Mrs. Robert Johnston, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. In both Queen Charlotte City and Wells, Diana’s family was well known and is still remembered as her father was the community doctor. As the girls approached their teens, the decision was made to relocate in Sechelt and then Vancouver. Starting in Grade 9, Diana attend Crofton House School, graduating in 1957.

Diana struggled as a student due to what was later discovered to be a learning disability, but this did not deter her from continuing her education. Diana earned her first degree in Education from the University of British Columbia (1961). While working as a first grade teacher, Diana started to develop an interest in children with special needs. Diana continued her education at the University of Oregon completing her Masters of Education in Special Education the fall of 1965. The doctoral course work was started immediately but after some months, Diana thought, “I had had enough schooling to last me a life-time” and quit, taking a position with Job Corps in Astoria, Oregon. For 18 months she worked with ‘the disadvantaged and minority groups’. Diana returned to the university completing her Doctorate of Education, Special Education/Educational Psychology in 1969.

Diana’s professional career primarily involved teaching. Appointments included: Associate Professor of Special Education, Clarion State College, Pennsylvania; Visiting Professor, University of Lethbridge; Assistant Professor of Special Education, Trenton State College, New Jersey, Master Teacher, the Sault College of Applied Arts & Technology, Ontario; Coordinator of Rehabilitation Services, Red Deer College, Alberta; and Special Education Teacher, Christine Meikle School, Calgary. Diana was instrumental in changing the thought pattern of many educators and communities to include the mentally challenged, and to get them out of institutions.

Diana excelled as an ‘organizer’ and held positions as the Executive Director at the Vocational and Rehabilitation Research Institute, Calgary and the Quesnel and District Child Development Centre. Diana came out of retirement to take her final job with the Quesnel & District Palliative Care Society as part-time Fundraiser, then that of Executive Secretary. In our community, Diana was well known as a ‘master fundraiser’. Under her direction and drive, the Child Development Centre blossomed and grew to the new building. One dare not leave an event such as the CDC’s Annual Telethon or the Artisan Auction without buying something or making a donation. She organized Quesnel’s first “Voices for Hospice”, a musical event that spanned the globe in a 24 hour period. Although not a horse lover she enthusiastically volunteered for the unique Cushman Ride every year. Hike for Hospice and a golf tournament benefited from her energy and enthusiasm.

When Diana moved to Quesnel in 1986, she soon came to realize this was the home she had longed for, a place to put down roots. It was here that she recognized and got treatment for the rollercoaster life of a mood disorder. She lived for a short time on Neighbor Road, and then in 1990, had a wheel-chair accessible home built in Uplands for herself and her mother, Molly. Diana was a devoted daughter, continuing to care for Molly until her death at age 91, in 1998.

Diana was an active hobbyist. Notable are her passion for race car driving, gardening and the outdoors. As a young woman, Diana was one of the first women to drive ‘with guys’ at Westwood. She maintained and repaired her Austin-Healey ‘Sprite’ and on more than one occasion, won (she loaned her car to a friend for the ‘powder puffs’). Diana always loved motorcycles and took one summer to ride across Canada. Her last ‘bike’ was a 49cc scooter which she bought after finishing cancer treatment in the summer of 2005. At her home, much time was spent in the garden and constructing a fish pond with stream. Diana was accomplished at many crafts which she used as a talented miniaturist, building, knitting and teaching, all in miniature.

Volunteering was a passion for Diana and a manifestation of her deeply held Christian belief system. Her favorite being, “It is better to give than to receive”. She worked as the “Queen of Port-a-potties” with the Billy Barker Days Society, was Treasurer of Quesnel Child and Youth Support Society for twenty years, an active parishioner and past secretary at St. Andrews United Church, and a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. Above her small paid position, Diana also worked tirelessly for the Quesnel and District Palliative Care Association. She believed that Quesnel should have a Hospice House. Lighting the downtown Tree of Dreams and organizing the Artisan Auction were some of the QDPCA fundraisers she organized for this cause. In passing, her final generous act was to donate the proceeds of the selling of her house to the Palliative Care Association for the development of the Hospice House. It is scheduled to be completed in 2008. We are sorry she was not able to utilize this facility.

On hearing of her impending death, Diana invited her friends and colleagues to her home for a ‘Wake’. There was quite a crowd. If you missed it, the ‘word of mouth’ must have been too slow.

Diana leaves a multitude of friends to remember and miss her, as well: her sister Heather Baskett, niece Tani (Bruce) of St. Albert, AB. with grandniece and nephew Bryn and Jonah; plus her nephews, Ward (Sharon) and Craig (Eva) of Port Coquitlam and Calgary respectively. She also leaves her beloved dog Nahonish (Inuit for ‘my baby’). A celebration of life was held for Diana on Friday, July 7, 2006 at the Senior’s Centre. Diana’s ashes will be taken by her family to a favorite camping spot of childhood. Diana’s oral history will be available through the Historical Society. Anyone wishing to make a donation in Diana’s memory, please do so to the Quesnel & District Palliative Care Association.

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