Up a Country Lane. Jan. 23, 2019.
We have been losing some dear relatives. My husband Robert, who died two years ago, had a brother Jack Birkby and sister Ruthella Barnard. Both passed away in recent months. They were in their mid-90s and in failing health. We had time to share with them and to say our goodbyes.
I was stunned and saddened to learn last week that my niece Diane Barnard has passed away. During some medical tests, doctors discovered inoperable cancer. Two weeks later she was gone. I simply can’t believe it.
Diane was married to my nephew Larry, the oldest of Ruthella’s sons. She and Larry lived in the Pacific Northwest for many years. They came back to Sidney after the death of Lucretia Birkby, Ruthella’s mother, and lived in the house Lucretia and Shorty Birkby had built in 1942.
Having them across town was a blessing. I got to know and appreciate Diane as one of the sweetest people I have ever known. She was born in Tacoma, Washington, and raised in Mississippi. I always thought there was a hint of a southern accent in her voice that seemed to go with her warm, sunny disposition.
Robert and I were in our 80s by then, and discovering we were in need of assistance. Diane and Larry came many times to help with chores, housecleaning, yard work, and other tasks. Knowing they were nearby in case of an emergency was a great relief to me.
As it became unsafe for us to drive, they often took us where we needed to go. For Robert, it was a daily trip to downtown Sidney to check the box at the post office and look in on friends at the drug store and bank. For me, it might be a trip to Shenandoah to broadcast on KMA radio. They drove us many times to Omaha for medical appointments.
For several years, Diane’s grandsons Elijah and Xavier came from Tacoma to spend summers in Sidney. We enjoyed getting to know them and sharing some very good times with them. I hope they will always remember her and their time in Iowa.
I remember a decade ago on my birthday when we went to Wing Wang Chinese Buffet in Shenandoah to celebrate. All three of my sons were home for visits, along with Craig’s wife Sharon and my grandchildren Amanda and Nick. Diane had her grandsons, too, and both Robert and Ruthella were with us.
There were so many relatives that we filled the front of the restaurant. It was a very big, happy family gathered on a beautiful summer evening. I think back on it with such warmth, now, remembering loved ones. It is a reminder of how important it is for us to enjoy our times together and to let others know we love them and appreciate all they do.
A few years ago, Larry and Diane moved to Yuma, Arizona, to take advantage of the warm weather. They were back in Sidney in October to help get Ruthella’s house ready to sell. I invited them to come with Ruthella’s other sons and daughter Luanne to have lunch with me.
While we ate, we talked about Ruthella and about her memorial service. As they got ready to leave, each came to tell me goodbye. So did Diane, who gave me a big hug. I said goodbye to her, not realizing it was the last time I would see her.
Diane was patient, unassuming, and so loving to so many people. She was a wonderful person, and I had expected to have her around for years to come. I join many others who will miss her deeply.
Diane and I enjoyed talking about menus and recipes. In a 2012 Up A Country Lane column, I shared her recipe for delicious chocolate chip cookies.
Diane’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar packed
2 ½ cups rolled oats
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanillas
1 teaspoon baking soda
A 12-ounce bag chocolate chips
1 ½ cups chopped nuts (optional)
Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.
In a separate bowl mix together flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Place small amounts of this dry ingredient mixture in a blender and process until mixture turns to powder. Stir the butter/egg mixture into the flour mixture. Do not overwork.
Add chocolate and nuts. Chill, covered, for eight hours or overnight. Roll batter into golf-ball sized balls. Place two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 11 or 12 minutes.