Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, adventurer, world traveller, friend. Born Sept. 28, 1936, in Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI. Died Jan. 13, 2012, in Ottawa of cancer, aged 75.
There seemed to be no stopping Dianne Thomas Yaccato. In her 75th year, she slept in a Bedouin tent in the Negev Desert with her daughter and granddaughter, hiked around Alaska and chased after her beloved three-year-old great-granddaughter. She would stop by for tea and by the time she left, your closets had been organized. Succumbing to an aggressive cancer, she finally stopped to rest in January.
Born in Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, Dianne was the second youngest of five siblings. She lost her parents, Hazel Walsh and Willard Thomas, early in life and she and her siblings were scattered to the four corners of the island to be raised by friends and family.
Dianne went to live on her grandparents’ farm in Maple Plains. After graduating from Union Commercial College at 18, she followed her older sister, Audrey, to the big city, finally settling in Montreal. There she fell for Peter Yaccato, a suave, handsome Italian who loved motorcycles. They married and began a 56-year journey that included being adopted by Peter’s noisy, rambunctious Italian family, having three children (Joanne, Jeff and Lori), three granddaughters (Kathleen, Krystal and Vanessa) and a great-granddaughter, Kaylee.
In 2005, Dianne retired from 23 years as a volunteer co-ordinator at Paramed Health Services. Her so-called retirement in no way included rest. Her name could be found on every volunteer list at her church. She visited the terminally ill, went to lectures and had the time of her life helping to train medical students through the standardized patient program.
She leaped wholeheartedly into tai chi, practising several times a week and going to retreats and luncheons with her fellow tai chi-ers. Passionate about travel, she cherished the Three Generation Trips – grandmother, daughter and granddaughter – that took her around the world. We cruised the Danube, took a helicopter trip over the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies, dipped our toes in the Sea of Galilee, ate ice cream at the White House and climbed the Eiffel Tower.
But true north for Dianne was always her beloved native Prince Edward Island. Dianne wore her “Islander” moniker, complete with red hair and usually bare feet, as a badge of honour. She believed everyone had a unique and valued place in this world, regardless of faith, creed or station in life. (She even tolerated Conservatives.)
Her last Christmas was a bustling affair surrounded by three generations of her family ranging in age from 3 to 78. As the last sibling to go, Dianne finally joins her much-missed siblings: Audrey, Madge, Leigh and Doug. There’s a helluva lobster boil and gabfest going on in heaven right now.
By Joanne Thomas Yaccato, Dianne’s daughter.