Friday, November 6, 2020

RIP Pastor Diane

The Rev. Diane Dunne, who helped feed the homeless in the East Village since the late 1980s, died in her sleep last Friday night at her Long Island home. She was 66.

Pastor Diane, as she was known, could be seen in Tompkins Square Park giving out free food on Wednesdays and Saturdays to those in need. “Tough love” is how one Park regular described her.   

In her 20s, she worked as a regional sales manager for a cosmetics company, a job that she found unfulfilling. In 1982, she enrolled at World Challenge Ministries and later embarked on a life of street ministry. A Long Island resident, she first came to Tompkins Square Park in 1987.

She was the founder of Hope For the Future Ministries, based in Farmingdale, Long Island. In November 2009, a fire, suspected to be arson, heavily damaged the facility's food pantry, though she was able to regroup. The organization was said to serve 300,000 hot meals and pantry bags per year to people in need on Long Island and in New York City.

Funeral arrangements are pending. There is a memorial scheduled to honor her tomorrow afternoon at 4 along Avenue A at Tompkins Square Park.
Top photo on this post is of a tribute to her as seen along Avenue A. Thank you to Steven for the reporting.


Lola Sáenz said...

I never met her. But may she RIP

Felton Davis said...

Tompkins Square Park has lost a very precious advocate, minister and friend in Pastor Diane. The example she provided -- and lived -- will shine on forever in the hearts of all who she touched. She goes "upstairs" to join so many neighborhood friends who have died over the years. When Julie Blackbird went missing from Tompkins in 1990, her body was never found, but Joel Rifkin confessed to her gruesome murder (and numerous others). When "Tompkins Square Linda" died in 1994, she was run over by a truck on 2nd Avenue. Her mother lived right off the park on East 10th Street. Stacy Kile was always hanging out either in the park or over by St. Joseph House. Annette was swept up during Hurricane Sandy and taken to an emergency shelter set up at a former school. More recently we lost Donna Harris in 2015, and she had two memorial services: one at Maryhouse that was written up in the Village Voice ("East Village Residents Ponder a Changing Neighborhood After a Homeless Woman's Death," March 23, 2015) and another in the park organized by Pastor Diane. Becky Crown spent a year in Rikers before she got strangled in the Bronx in April. ("Woman found dead half naked in a Bronx garbage can," NY Daily News, April 28, 2020) A suspect was arrested a month later in Chicago. And then there was Maria Quito, whose favorite spot was on the corner of 1st Avenue and East 4th Street, with her little dog. Maria refused several ambulance calls until she became so weak with cancer that she finally accepted hospitalization, and died on August 29th. Women are still coming to Maryhouse and being shocked to hear that Maria has died, she was not even fifty years old.

Felton Davis said...

I'm sure that Pastor Diane could tell you many more stories about most of these mostly troubled souls, as well as others not so well known to us at the Catholic Worker. And so I imagine an amazing welcoming committee for her arrival in paradise, no lonely climb up the steps to the gate for her!
You know the classic parable. The reluctant seeker gets down on his or her knees, and says, "Lord, you claim to have walked with me through thick and thin. But what about this part of my life, where I only see one set of steps in the sand?"
In the Catholic Worker version the Lord responds, "That was a time was when another person needed my attention more than you."
In the squatter version the response is, "That was the time all your friends protested your eviction and sat down in front of the bulldozers, and they were all taken to Central Booking."
But in the Pastor Diane version of the parable, there is no need for a special answer, because she opened up a transcendent world of divine presence, beyond all earthly advocacy, perhaps even beyond all earthly organized religion, and communicated it in a no-nonsense fashion and with the simplest words.

Felton Davis said...

We know that You can heal the wounded city,
Please help us, Lord, to feel Your presence here,
Let all the trembling souls be filled with courage,
And all the frightened people banish fear.

We know that where Your people are forbidden,
We must go and be forbidden too;
To stores and streets and parks and trains and stations,
We must go and be cast out with You.

We know that You have mercy on Your creatures,
We know that every desperate prayer is heard;
If some cry out for food and clothes and shelter,
Please send Your grace and let our hearts be stirred.

We know that in Your house are many dwellings,
Where all the destitute can have a place,
Where all the unloved ones and all the homeless,
Can rest and be secure in Your embrace.

We know that You can heal the wounded city,
It is not homes but hearts that are too small;
Each one of us must be considered vagrant,
Until the human family welcomes all.

Anonymous said...

If only everyone would use their time like she did. Helping so many people and not being ruled by greed, lust, anger, revenge, and jealousy to spin their wheels to do evil instead. THANK YOU for all you did Diane. You were never Thanked enough, but you were Much Appreciated.
Rest In Peace. You Are Irreplaceable.