The Diane Boeke Story – A Most Fascinating Lady
Diane was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her grandfather, with his family, immigrated to Utah from Norway around the turn of the century. A few years after arriving there, her grandfather, who was working in the coal mines in Utah, died of “Black Lung Disease” leaving his wife and three young daughters. Diane said it was very hard on her mother, the eldest, who had to find ways to help support the family. She says her mother eventually taught grammar school in small towns and was later accredited to teach in Salt Lake City schools.
Diane’s mother and father met in Salt Lake City where they were later married and started a family that consisted of Diane and an older brother. Her father was a jeweler whose family was from Arizona and Omaha, Nebraska. Unfortunately, Diane never knew him since he died from peritonitis when her mother was three months pregnant with her.
When Diane was about five years old, her mother remarried. She fondly remembers her stepfather teaching her older brother and her to ski. Diane states, “Skiing has been a big part of my life. Even while living in Hawaii, I would be able to ski during an occasional visit to Salt Lake in the winter. And, my claim to fame regarding skiing is that, in later years, while visiting the ski museum at Vail, I saw a pair of skis identical to the ones I had used as a youngster!”
Diane had an aunt who was married to a sheep rancher, who, during the summer months, would herd his sheep back into the Unita mountain range. Diane recalls, at a very young age, riding on horseback behind her mother on trails up the mountain and through “Dead Horse Pass.” She says, “I’ll NEVER forget that name.” They would ride into the remote valleys where the summer camp, comprised of covered wagons, was located and spend several months there helping around the camp, fishing in the lakes, and fighting the mosquitoes.
Diane graduated from the University of Utah majoring in speech education with an emphasis on drama. Following graduation, she married and taught speech and drama at South High School in the Salt Lake City school system for two years. Her husband was employed at a local TV station during the 50s and also belonged to an air force reserve unit that specialized in technical television research. When the Korean War began, his reserve unit was activated. He was sent to Burbank, California, where the early TV studios were located, to participate in experimental television. Diane remained in Salt Lake to complete her teaching commitment and then joined him in Burbank. When he was discharged at the end of the war, he had the choice of going back to his previous employment in Salt Lake City or going to Honolulu where another station was starting its television operation. Diane laughs when she says it took about 5 minutes of consideration to decide to move to Honolulu.
Once Diane arrived in Hawaii she realized that the teaching profession was not what she wanted to pursue. She states, “Besides I would have had to return to college for one year to become accredited in Hawaii, and this was not an option for me at that time.” Instead, her first Hawaiian employment was with Kodak Hawaii as a sales clerk where she learned about cameras and film. She then studied shorthand and was employed in numerous secretarial positions of increasing responsibility over several years. She remembers two in particular. “I worked in the public relations department for a large Hawaiian firm where I learned about news writing, advertising, and publicity and was given the responsibility of publishing a monthly company newspaper. This included selecting and writing the stories plus doing the layouts.” She later was administrative assistant to the president of a land development company and was elected as corporate assistant secretary. She states, “This was almost unheard of during those days of ‘male’ dominated corporate structure.” As you can see, Diane was a very progressive lady throughout her working career.
Diane is and will always be a very adventurous lady. This may be due to the fact that in her twenties she was diagnosed with and survived third stage ovarian cancer without receiving radiation treatments, the only post-operative option available then. I’m sure life seemed more precious after this and motivated her to never turn away from new experiences. Following are just a few such adventures.
- I was a passenger in a small airplane that flew in circles directly over a major volcano eruption on the Big Island watching in utter awe the shooting spurts erupting up toward us from the sea of bubbling lava below.
- I spent several days in the Kohala Mountains backpacking and traveling on mules through the tunneled water system dug into the mountains which brought water down to the sugar fields.
- I rode on horseback into Haleaukala crater on Maui along switchback trails carved into the almost vertical sides of the crater. This was one of the most frightening experiences I have ever had. The horse I was on had a propensity of stopping at each switchback turn, dipping his neck low, I assumed, to survey his position, which forced me forward, frantically clutching my saddle horn to prevent my falling over his mane and dipped head into the sheer drop-off down hundreds of feet to the bottom. Fortunately, each turn brought the bottom closer as we gradually descended, but I will never ever forget that frightening experience – particularly since horses are less sure-footed than mules.
- A later return trip to the Big Island coincided with the occurrence of a large earthquake there. I was lying on the beach one morning in front of our hotel when all of a sudden the birds stopped chirping, the breezes stopped ‘breezing,’ and I heard the beginning of a growing rumble coming from the earth. I looked toward the hotel and watched the ground move as if it were a rolling wave that passed from the area beyond the hotel, then under it, move toward me, and then beyond me out into the ocean, several times. It was so weird to see the hotel building move up and down as if it were floating on water. Just as suddenly, all was quiet for a few seconds and then all the people in the hotel started running out screaming and yelling. It wasn’t until hours later that I and others had the courage to go back into the building. There was damage, nothing really severe, fortunately, and no one was seriously injured, but lots of drawers, closets and unattached things had been tossed about creating quite a mess.”
Diane has had a life-long love of the theater and during her lifetime has participated in upwards of 50 amateur theatrical productions as either an actress or as a director. Her credits also include professional television and film appearances in Salt Lake City and Hawaii where she hosted a weekly charades game show on television as well as doing live commercials. A highlight of her “career,” however, was appearing as one of the nurses in the film South Pacific which was the first musical to be filmed on location and, in this case, on the Island of Kauai. All the stars and technical equipment came from the mainland, but extras and minor roles were auditioned and cast from local talent in Hawaii. Diane auditioned and was selected. She recalls spending two wonderful and exciting weeks on the Island of Kauai during the portion of the filming which involved the nurses. During her time in Hawaii, Diane also acted with the Honolulu Community Theater as well as being involved in the theater at the University of Hawaii.
As sometimes happens in ones life, Diane and her husband were divorced. Sometime later she met and married an architect who played a major role in the early development of The Sea Ranch, a widely recognized and acclaimed sea side community located in Northern California. After returning to the mainland and living in Los Angeles for two years, they moved to The Sea Ranch where they establish their own consulting business. They soon realized that working as a consultant required a great deal of travel all over the state and elsewhere. Living quite far from a major airport they were finding it difficult to coordinate commercial air travel with business meetings. So Diane, being the adventurous lady she is, decided to acquire a private pilot’s license to ferry her husband to various locations. But, she didn’t stop there. After one particularly harrowing flying experience in their private plane while back East and encountering unexpected turbulent weather, she was motivated to get an instrument rating and later a commercial pilot’s license all of which Diane says, “Enabled me to be a safer pilot.” The plane they had purchased was a Cessna Cardinal. Diane remembers, “It had high wings and no struts so the ground visibility was absolutely fabulous.” I think she has a little Amelia Earhart in her!
Diane recalls one particularly humorous experience while vacationing in their Cessna. They flew into Chinle Airport in Arizona and unloaded their twin green bicycles which they carried to enable them to have their own “ground transportation” when landing at small-town airports The doors on their plane were wide enough to allow the bikes to fit in the back. They proceeded to pedal up Canyon De Chelly to view the American Indian Anasazi ruins. While biking up the Canyon, they played hopscotch with one particular car. Thinking nothing more about it, they finished their sightseeing and returned to the airport. The plan had been to fly to Flagstaff that evening, but because of thunder storms, they diverted to Prescott which was about 200 miles from Chinle. It was after they had biked to their motel and her husband was in the parking lot after returning from an errand on his bike that he turned around and there was the same car and occupants they had seen in Canyon De Chelly. The man took one look and dived back into his car most likely wondering how anyone could ride that distance on a bike and arrive before him – an impossible feat. I would have loved to have seen the look on that gentleman’s face!
After consulting for several years, Diane and her husband decided they were ready to move on to other opportunities. Consequently, her husband accepted a leadership position with a Mexican development company in Baja that seemed interesting, and they moved south to Coronado. After commuting between Coronado and Baja for a while, they determined this provided more adventure than they had bargained for. Back in those days driving in Mexico was not as common as it is now.
It was at this time they determined they wanted to get back to the land. So, after doing some research and through a friend of theirs, they found a 12-acre avocado ranch in Fallbrook that resonated with them. They purchased this ranch and successfully raised avocados for 20 years in a very beautiful and remote setting. Not only did they raise avocados but they designed and built a wonderful and unique home in the middle of this ranch. Its most amazing feature was the 30 foot fiddle leaf fig tree growing in the living room area -quite a spectacular sight!
Diane tells some wonderful stories about the challenges of providing energy for this home prior to San Diego Gas & Electric running electricity to their remote location. This couple was truly ahead of their time in that they used a combination of power sources – propane to run the refrigerator, solar panels to heat water for the house, and a marine diesel generator and a bank of batteries to provide electricity. The generator required water to keep it cool while it was running so Diane’s husband devised a unique way of circulating the cool water from the swimming pool to the generator which was then heated and sent back into the pool, eliminating the need for a pool heater. Diane reminisces about the generator they named “Junior” because “it was like a wayward child who would decide not to work on Fridays’ at 5 o’clock when help wasn’t available.” Being the adventurous lady she is, Diane remembers having to perform an occasional “heart bypass on Junior” with very little guidance from anyone. In the beginning while they still had their electric refrigerator, she remembers the many times she would drive into Fallbrook and round up enough dry ice to keep perishables cool until repairs were made. Diane shared that they walked the grove every two weeks to be sure everything was in order. When asked if she enjoyed her years on the ranch, she replied, “It was great. I loved the fact we could walk out the front door and pick avocados and other wonderful home-grown fruits and vegetables in such a magnificently beautiful and peaceful environment.”
It should come as no surprise that this energetic lady also found time to become active in the Fallbrook Theater. She acted and directed with a local group and served two terms as president.
But, as we all know, there is a time in life for everything and eventually it came time to dispose of the ranch. After much thought, they decided they wanted to return to The Sea Ranch. Through long-time friends, Phil and Pat Maurer, they were introduced to Western University of Health Sciences and its Planned Giving Department. A charitable gift annuity transaction was arranged that allowed them to return to The Sea Ranch and also to receive a dependable income. WesternU is very appreciative of this philanthropic support.
After returning to The Sea Ranch, it wasn’t long before Diane was once again involved in the theater. Long-time friends recruited her to select and direct plays to be performed in the Knipp-Stengel Barn which had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. She smiles when she recalls her first glimpse of the structure. It was totally bare with no stage! But, with the help of her theatre partners and a great deal of ingenuity and inventiveness by many other volunteers, they managed to put on their first play. After that successful production, there was, and still is, a ground swell of volunteers and donors including a group of amateur actors called the Sea Ranch Thespians who worked diligently to transform the barn into a quality playhouse that draws full houses for every performance. In fact, Diane was the artistic director of the Thespians from this group’s inception until 2005. Diane’s vivacious and can-do personality played an integral part in its success. In recognition of her contribution to the cultural life of The Sea Ranch and greater North Coast community she was awarded Sea Rancher of the Year in 2004. Even though Diane recently retired from an active role in performances at the barn and the Sea Ranch Thespians, one shouldn’t be surprised to still see her dabbling in this endeavor. She is truly a multi-talented lady that is never afraid to tackle what may seem to others like a hopeless project. Our hats are off to her!
Because of major changes in Diane’s life, she recently had to review her estate plan. It was at this time that she decided to remember Western University of Health Sciences with a bequest gift that is in addition to the charitable gift annuity already established. It is an honor for WesternU to include this wonderful and caring lady among its long-time friends and supporters. We are forever grateful for her kindness and generosity to this university.