Diane Callison Ziler McConnell
Diane Callison Ziler McConnell, 66, succumbed on December 17th to injuries suffered in a bicycle accident on November 10th, 2012. Born in El Salvador on December 11, 1946 to Ann Rigney Ziler and William Donovan Ziler, Diane leaves her daughter Darcy McConnell and son-in-law Mathew Roy of San Antonio, Texas; sisters and brothers-in-law Jeanie and Tom Calhoun of Little Rock and Sally and Peter Ettlinger of Lincolnshire, Ill.; nieces and nephews Dan Morgan of Dallas, Texas, Katie Ettlinger, Kelsey Ettlinger and Jacob Ettlinger all of Chicago, Ill. and Sam Calhoun of Boone, N.C.; former husband Jim McConnell of Tucson, Ariz. and a host of friends to mourn her demise.
Reared on Army bases in the USA and Japan, Diane grew adept at making new friends and finding her way everywhere she went. She took a BA degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC and then headed to Washington D.C. where she landed a job with the Smithsonian Institute planning festivals on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Diane was touring with a puppet troupe for the Smithsonian when she met musician and engineer Jim McConnell in Montreal, Quebec. Over the years, Jim's career with the Veterans Administration moved them to numerous cities including three separate moves to Little Rock. The last of these took place in 1987. Diane was through moving for she knew that Little Rock was "home". It was here she had given birth to her precious daughter Darcy. She also earned a Master of Social Work degree from UALR during that first Little Rock tour. Subsequently, she decided that she did not actually want to practice, but found her true career in Information Technology working first for UAMS and then the VA from which she retired in 2010.
A physically active person, Diane loved to dance. Growing up with rock and roll, Diane could be found on the dance floor as soon as the music started. She took part in the Arkansas Country Dance Society, loving in particular the English Country dances and music and traveling to dance in other states. Diane loved dance so much, her workouts were at Jazzercise for over 20 years. And yoga helped keep her in shape for all her activities. She also loved the performance of dance; even TV's So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars thrilled her when choreographer, dancer and music merged into ineffable art – right in her living room!
Diane took great pleasure in riding her bicycle locally on the River Trail and in group rides such as the Thursday morning Retired Ride and the Sandwiching in History ride which satisfied both her love for bicycling and for learning more about her adopted home town. Riding farther afield, Diane took part in the Training BRAA tours around Lake DeGray, the annual Overnighter ride to Hot Springs and the Tour de Hoot in McGehee. She rode in the Big Dam Bridge 100 and Cycle Zydeco in Lafayette, La. She delighted in loading her bike's panniers for camping and touring. Active in supporting local bicycle group efforts, she served at Secretary/Treasurer for the Arkansas Bicycle Club and was a member of the Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas.
Diane loved beauty in its many forms both natural and human made. She sought out local artists' work for her home; haunting galleries in the Heights; going on the monthly art walks in Argenta, Little Rock and Hot Springs; following Stone County ‘s Off the Beaten Path studio tour, participating in the Friends of Contemporary Craft excursions and supporting Arkansas Arts Center Museum School artists. Nothing pleased her more than chatting with the artists themselves.
Diane's eye for beauty found much to please it in our natural world. She loved being outside whether she was working in her own well-tended, lovely garden or trekking with the Ouachita Mountain Hikers in the wilds of Arkansas, North Carolina or Colorado. Diane loved the hikes locally and the trips to see the beautiful wildflowers where ever she hiked. It was hard to get her hiking; she wanted to see every wildflower in The Smoky Mountains of N.C. When Diane was home, she generally could be found piddling in her yard. She would ask gardening advice of others, but then end by teaching them instead. She enjoyed having native and unusual species among her many plants, yet the large pink camellias were her pride. She had a keen eye for wildlife and could identify birds even while driving. Totally open to nature's grandest displays at sunrise and sunset, Diane also responded to the delicate beauty of fern life and fungi on a forest floor. Diane was an avid hiker who relished in Pinnacle Mountain's proximity as well as the walk in Emerald Park near Fort Roots where she worked for many years. She delighted in canoeing and kayaking Arkansas waters such as the Ouachita, Buffalo and Little Maumelle Rivers.
Diane had a gentle kindness that warmly accepted everyone. She welcomed new families into the neighborhood by sharing the area's history and randomly demonstrating her thoughtfulness. It was typical for her to give away a new yard tool that she found useful, her handmade soap, or a recipe along with the prepared dish simply because she thought the recipient might find it helpful or tasty. Diane took time to visit; no matter what other tasks was occupying her, she devoted her attention to catching up on the news of others. There wasn't a child, dog, or cat in the neighborhood that she didn't know.
A good day for Diane began on her bike or on a hike and ended in the company of family and friends, usually around food and wine and with lively conversation and lots of laughter. Diane had many friends in intersecting circles of acquaintance that were centered by "The Knitsters", seven women who gather to knit a couple of times a month in each other's homes. Together, these women knit a powerful friendship of love and respect; each bringing her own loved ones into the treasured circle; all kindred spirits. Those who remain are broken hearted and yet are comforted by memories of Diane's vital intelligence and loving heart.
A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Little Rock located at 1818 Reservoir Road at 4 p.m., Friday, December 21, 2012. In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made in Diane's name to Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas, http://www.bicycleadvocacy.com.
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