This weekend saw the passing of our dear friend and colleague Dianne Winiecki. We are sad to lose her but know that she has gone to her Lord and will no longer suffer the challenges that she has experienced the last two years.
I first met Dianne during the summer of my freshman year when I began to work as a classroom aide at the Barber Center. My past experiences included volunteering for Center activities, so this was going to be my “first” real job. I was nervous, as I had no idea what to expect in my role as classroom aide. Mrs. Pascarella assured me that she would assign me to the best teacher that they had, Dianne Winiecki. It was truly a learning summer and I found that I thoroughly enjoyed working with the children.
Throughout my college years, summertime found me back to the Center continuing my role as a classroom aide. These experiences led me to pursue a Master’s Degree in Special Education. I returned to the Center after working as a special education teacher in the Erie School District. Now in my new role as a supervisor, I would assign Dianne to mentor new teachers and assistants. Every teacher wanted to work with Dianne as she was so fabulous with the children. She retired in 2012 because, as she told me, “I can’t keep up with the kids so it is not fair to the teacher or the children.”
My personal friendship with Dianne began 18 years ago when Ryan was two and a student in the Happy Hearts childcare program. I was concerned, as he was experiencing developmental delays in language. I turned to Dr. Barber for advice and she called upon Dianne for a special favor to work with Ryan. Although she only worked with Ryan for nine months, they established an unbreakable bond. Easter, Christmas, Halloween and birthdays were occasions to visit, go on trips to the Peninsula, see movies and take car rides. This continued until her illness prevented their get-togethers, but we continued to mail a monthly card to update her on our activities and let her know that she was loved and missed.
Dianne was the very definition of “making dreams come true” for all of our children. Thank you for your 48 years of service to the Barber National Institute.You will truly be missed.