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Diane Lynn Mark-Walker ’81

Diane Lynn Mark-Walker ’81, September 16, 2014, in Los Angeles, California, from a rare cancer.

A wonderful, intelligent, quirky, witty, loving, and generous woman, Diane had lived with appendix cancer for the last seven years. She never felt like she was in a battle, never seemed to wonder “Why me?” Instead, she continued investigating this life with all its wonders.

Diane completed a BA in art, writing the thesis “The Monastic Context of the Book of Kells” with adviser Peter Parshall [art history 1971–2000]. She cherished her time at Reed as a place of genuine intellectual inquiry that had enough institutional humanity to allow her to pursue Neoplatonism and calligraphy with equal passion, and where she made some lifelong friendships. She went on to Harvard, where she earned a master’s degree in theological studies, focusing her work on the history of religion, and also earned an MA in art history and art appreciation at Boston University.

Religion played a significant role in Diane’s life. For her, it was never a set of rules to be followed but rather a challenge to ask important questions, to align actions with convictions, and to structure an internal conversation of the spirit. Hers was a lifelong search that eventually led her to Zen Buddhism, a practice she continued even as her illness progressed.

While in Cambridge, Diane met her husband, Charles Mark, a woodworker and fine furniture artist now turned graphic designer and photographer. Their committed relationship began in January 1985, and they were married in May 1988. Their marriage—one of deep affection and total devotion—brought Diane much happiness. In 1990, a program in design at UCLA, lured them to Los Angeles, where they thenceforth made their home.

Diane was a talented writer and editor, alternately working as a freelancer and, for many years, as a staff writer and editor at the Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute. As a book editor, she brought to bear both a writer’s instincts and a keen attention to detail. To say that Diane was detail-oriented does not do justice to the thorough and intelligent examination she devoted to anything that interested her. Her many friends looked forward to her quirky and humorous emails, which often expressed great empathy and compassion for others. Even when she was very ill herself, she would offer a word of encouragement to a friend, make a recommendation regarding someone else’s much smaller problem, or express her delight in some aspect of what she called “the swirl of life outside my little compound.” 

Baking was one of her strong and deeply realized interests. Impressed by the flavor and delicacy of the financiers at the Eric Kayser bakery in Paris, she eventually created her own version of the small almond cakes, which her husband declared surpassed even those of the award-winning bakery. In recent years, she was on a quest to perfect her piecrusts, discovering that she could produce tender, flaky results by freezing the butter and adding chilled vodka. She created a seasonal chart of different pies to make—peach, cherry, apple, chocolate, and lemon—and with each passing month the pies kept getting better.

Diane spent many hours with cats, lavishing affection on both her own beloved rescue companions and those at Pet Orphans of Southern California, where she volunteered. It was cat care that finally persuaded her and Charlie to buy a microwave, so they could tempt ailing cats with warm food and heating pads on cold nights.

Diane wished to thank her many doctors and nurses at Kaiser Permanente for helping her, sometimes heroically, to remain with us much longer than any had predicted and to continue to enjoy the life she so loved. It was very important to Diane that when she could no longer enjoy life—could no longer create, discuss, intuit, love, and care for others—she would no longer have to stay in this world. Though she had excellent care from Kaiser Hospice, her death, as many do, showed the need for a California “death with dignity” law. In the end, the body fights to live, and she had no way to quietly move on.

Diane is survived by Charles; her mother, Alice Speck; her sister, Cindy Walker; her brother, Kevin Walker; and her feline companion, Sumi Mark-Walker.

This memorial was composed by Chris Alden ’82, Peter Beeler ’81, Gail Draper ’81, and Charles Mark-Walker.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2015

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