Former longtime Fairbanksan Dianne Viola Durrwachter passed away May 29, 2012, in Victoria, B.C., Canada, of sleep apnea, congestive heart/ respiratory failure. She was removed from a cruise ship returning from her beloved Alaska.
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Dianne was born three minutes ahead of her identical twin, Sylvia, July 16, 1941, to Fredrick Durrwachter and Ruth Ella Caroline Zenkner. She lived her early years in the Chehalis, Wash., area.
In summer 1945, her father moved the family of six to a 40 acre parcel of forested land on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington west of Port Angeles to a rudimentary house, no road access, power, phone or running water. Two years later, the county built the 1-1/4 mile "Durrwachter Road" that allowed Dianne and her siblings to walk to catch a bus to school. Seven years later, power arrived. She learned independence and self reliance early as all meat, dairy and produce was raised and preserved for winter. Living in isolation, she and her twin developed their own language, which was not helpful when entering first grade.
Dianne attended 1-12 grades at Crescent School in the tiny, closeknit community of Joyce, Wash., in 1960. Desiring to be a primary grade teacher she enrolled at Western Washington State College, Bellingham, earning her degree through hard work, frugality and a little sibling help. Dr. Charles Laffery, Superintendent of Schools, interviewed Dianne in spring 1965, bringing her north that fall. She was assigned second grade at Nordale School under Emily Kemak, principal, teaching 7-year-olds for 24 years. She felt it a privilege to work in a well-run school with excellent staff and supportive parents.
She is remembered for providing a stimulating learning environment, encouraging each child to do their best striving for academic excellence. Dianne is noted for developing effective/fun "Mad Minute" math drills and was one of the earliest primary teachers to provide hands-on science experiences. Perhaps one of her highest compliments came from her peers who expressed confidence that students assigned to Miss Durrwachter's second grade would be well-prepared for the next grade. While active in many local, state and national organizations, she had a sustaining interest in promoting more women in politics.
She decided mid-summer 1998 to retire when along with a change in principals the district adopted the "whole language/sight" reading program that she felt was not suitable for many of her students. Leaving Fairbanks that fall, she and her twin, Sylvia, built a new home in Port Angeles, Wash., where she became involved in numerous activities, most notably the county fair and the Joyce Grange. However, Alaska remained a beacon calling her back many times.
Predeceased by her parents and infant brother, Lane, she leaves behind her brother, Dale, of Fairbanks; twin sister, Sylvia, and brother, Jack, both of Port Angeles; sister, Judith Moilanen, and her husband Emil; and special niece, Erin and nephew, Neal.
A celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m., Sept. 8, 2012, at Crescent Grange, Joyce, Wash. Her cremains will be interred in the small Pioneer cemetery at Crescent Beach along the Straits of Juan De Fuca, a favorite place since childhood.
Published in Daily News-Miner on Aug. 12, 2012