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Diane Alden Perry

May 22, 1922 May 31, 2012
Diane Alden Perry
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Obituary for Diane Alden Perry

Diane Alden Perry passed away after an epic struggle with old age. Her daughter was by her side. Born Jean Elizabeth Van Leuven in Kansas City, MO, she was the only child of Wentworth and Gertrude (Lazar) Van Leuven. Though not without its regrets, Diane had a well-lived and traveled life that took her from Missouri to New Orleans to Berkeley to Los Angeles to San Francisco, and then Paris, Greece, Italy and finally Gold Beach, Oregon. Born after the First World War but before The Crash, she experienced the 20th Century with a certain flair and by her own rules. Her family settled in Southern California, where she spent her formative years in Los Angeles and Hollywood, graduating from LA High School and briefly attending USC. Her interests were always centered in the arts: gifted intellectually and creatively, she was also a beautiful woman, with a talent for music and dance, as well as for languages and the arts. A life-long learner, she read widely and constantly. She studied ballet with the renowned Ernest Belcher, whose protégées included Maria Tallchief and Marge Champion. Sidelined from a ballet career by injury, she parlayed her love of dance and the theater into work for Disney (think the dancing mushrooms in Fantasia), and worked in film and radio in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, which is when she adopted the stage name of Diane Alden, an old family name. After attending art school, her work included theater and costume design, interior design and painting. It was in Hollywood that she met the love of her life, the character actor Jay Novello, and though they never married, they remained close friends until his death in 1982. Diane moved to San Francisco in the early ‘50’s, lured by the romance, adventure, and beauty of The City: the hills, the bridges, the Bay and the fog, El Cid, the Purple Onion, Enrico’s – the years of Beat Poets, great jazz, museums, opera, symphony and ballet. She married and had one child in 1957. The marriage ended four years later and she set out as a single mother when that was hardly the accepted thing. She provided well, if on a shoe-string budget, and made education and creative pursuits a priority. She made some of the best Halloween costumes, and every Christmas was magical. She was a legal secretary and sometimes took in typing to make ends meet, but the home was always rich with music playing and art and ideas to discuss. She did many things before they were ‘mainstream’, including owning her own home as a single woman, recycling, and eating yogurt ;-) In 1972 she married Roderick E. Perry and the two moved to Nevada 6 years later. They made their final move to Gold Beach, Oregon in 1984 where she developed a strong semi-abstract watercolor style, producing hundreds of paintings inspired by the seacoast, mountains and forests of the area. Her paintings are in private collections in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California, as well as Oregon. She walked on the beach, enjoyed yoga, cooking and gardening, loved animals and was known for taking in stray cats. When Rod passed away in 1994, Diane was able to travel, heading first to Greece and then to Italy to paint. Fiercely independent, she chose to live in her home until 2007 when she moved to Shore Pines Assisted Living in Gold Beach, where she was known for her wit, feistiness and determination. Though she passed away in Gold Beach after living there for close to thirty years and being very fond of her friends in Oregon, in her heart, San Francisco was always “home”. Per her wishes, she was cremated and there was no service. Her ashes will be scattered on San Francisco Bay. She is survived by her daughter, Leslie Alden, and granddaughter, Caitlin Elizabeth Alden Crowe, both of Corte Madera, CA, as well as distant cousins in Southern California and Missouri. The family wishes to thank the staff of Shore Pines and Curry County Hospice for their years of kind and compassionate care, and especially Dorothy Dutton, Family Nurse Practitioner Extraordinaire, as well as friends and neighbors who treated her so kindly. Diane was an environmentalist, loved animals, and was a supporter of the arts. The family asks that any donations be made in her memory to the World Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society, the National Resources Defense Council, or a local arts organization.

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