Diane Wallace Dunn Kahler
1937 - 2020
{ "" }
Share Diane's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
Kahler, Diane Wallace Dunn
Diane Wallace Dunn Kahler died peacefully on November 5, 2020 in Carlsbad, CA at the age of 83.
Diane was born on January 17, 1937 in New Haven, CT, to Elizabeth Roth Dunn and Philip Edgar Dunn. She was raised on nearby Phipps Lake, and grew up deeply connected to the beauty and wildlife of her childhood woodlands. She graduated from West Haven High School in 1954. Diane received her B.S. in nursing, with distinction, from the University of Connecticut at Storrs in 1958. It was while working as a nurse at Yale that she met her future husband, cardiologist Richard Lee Kahler, M.D. This photo of Diane ran in this newspaper 62 years ago, announcing her engagement. Her husband's practice took the family, which now included their three children, to La Jolla, CA ten years later.
Diane was a Cub and Girl Scout leader, and taught many scouts (and their leaders) to camp, backpack, and canoe. Her outdoor skills and capacity for organizing group wilderness adventures could have been a full-time career in another life, but in La Jolla, these abilities simply made her a much-admired mom.
As her children left for college and her marriage ended, Diane enrolled at UCSD to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. In 1982, she began a full-time career at Kaiser Permanente, also becoming a Certified Diabetes Instructor and a Clinical Instructor in the UCSD/UCSF nurse practitioner/nurse midwife Masters Degree program. She retired from Kaiser in 2011. Diane also served as a volunteer CPR and Advanced First Aid Instructor for the American Red Cross.
Throughout her busy medical career, Diane's love for the natural world prevailed. She continued to organize Colorado River canoeing and kayaking trips for friends and colleagues, introducing many of them to their first wilderness experiences. She moved to Bristol Cove in Carlsbad, CA in 1988, and volunteered extensively for the city. She was a founder of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation and a beloved docent at the Carlsbad Flower Fields. She was known as Diane Richards from 1991–2005.
In her 70s, Diane embarked upon a decade of intrepid world travel with her life partner, Steven Magnus Nelson of Vancouver, WA, who survives her. Together, they kayaked, hiked, camped, canoed, toured or river cruised across the globe, as far north as the Yukon Territory and as far south as the Falkland Islands. She faced significant health challenges in her later years, but remained the determined, active and inspiring role model she had been throughout her life.
Diane is survived by her daughter, Sally Kahler Phillips (Hunter) of Beverly Hills, CA; her son Geoffrey Lee Kahler (Reini Winter) of Sandy, UT; and three grandchildren: Davis Fisher Kahler, Alexander Mazieres Kahler, and Katherine Anne Kahler. Her eldest son, David Marc Kahler, M.D. predeceased her.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the San Diego Zoo Foundation. Diane was a lifelong supporter of its mission of education and species preservation, and would be deeply touched by your kindness.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The New Haven Register on Nov. 19, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by NHRegister.com
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
10 entries
November 29, 2020
Diane was my Girl Scout leader in junior and senior high school. As I look back at that time in my life, I am always amazed at the energy and dedication she had. Girl Scouts with her wasn't a series of boring meetings doing arts and crafts, it was instead challenging yourself with monthly camping, backpacking and canoe trips. She helped give me a focus during the trials of adolescence. I am sorry to hear of her loss but grateful for the great gift of her presence that she shared with so many of us.
Patricia Richardson Shamloufard
November 29, 2020
Diane was my preceptor when I was in the University of San Diego's Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Program in about 1989. After one day with her, I remember saying to myself, "Damn..........she's smarter than any doctor I've met!" She was tough on questions after I'd evaluate a patient, but taught me so much. Her following at Kaiser was amazing. All the patients loved her, and I learned how important it would be to establish rapport with each patient I'd encounter. I also remember thinking about how amazing she was.........working all week, and then rushing out to get ready for a canoeing trip, Girl Scout camping deal, or a hike........as a single Mom, I believe. I only wish I'd known she was here in North County as it would have been fun to meet up with her. I would have loved to tell her how grateful I was for getting a good start on a 30+ career as an FNP myself. My sincere condolences to Sally, Geoffrey, Steve, and the grandkids. Am sure she was an amazing Grandma, and treated those kids to some fun "outdoor" times with great memories attached. Will always remember Diane fondly.
Jacqueline Cotten
November 28, 2020
I met Diane when we were both Girl Scout leaders in La Jolla. She convinced me to take over her troop and trained me in backpacking, canoeing, first aid and orienteering...all the Girl Scout way. She was such a treasure. So giving and supportive. Peace to you, Diane.
Charlene Chatham Price
November 28, 2020
Diane was a colleague of mine at Kaiser. I didn't know her well, as we worked in different locations, but I did get to know her at Kaiser meetings and functions. She was always smiley, pleasant and interesting in conversation. By reputation, she was know as a caring and competent practitioner. I knew about her canoeing trips on the lower Colorado, as they were the stuff of legend around Kaiser. I am glad I knew her and I'm sure she will be missed by many.
Skip Randall
November 27, 2020
Diane was a wonderful neighbor and friend. I met her nearly 20 years ago while walking our dog Spot near the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. I immediately realized her high level of intelligence and her passion for nature. Later I learned how much she loved her family and her pets. Diane even gave me the beautiful children’s book that Sally wrote. My husband and I were treated to some of Diane’s Christmas Light Parade dinner parties. I still treasure her recipe for fish chowder. I was fortunate enough to go with Diane on one of her annual Colorado River canoe trips (what a rookie I was). The world has lost a true adventurer, and I have lost an amazing friend.
Cathy Brendel
November 27, 2020
Diane will be sorely missed by all those she volunteered with at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad. She LOVED everything at the Fields and wanted to be with the school kids every morning. She loved the kids, the flowers, the visitors and always felt invigorated after volunteering
a full morning. Diane's intelligence, grace and wit could never be duplicated. Age was only a number for her and she could run circles around people half her age. She had an amazing quest for learning and never stopped looking toward the future and changes. I will miss her terribly as she was the first person I saw to start my morning with
a big hug ,as we waited for the school kids to arrive. She loved her family and Steve and loved to tell stories about the Grandkids. This is a huge loss for all those that knew and loved her!
Joni Miringoff
November 27, 2020
I worked with her at Kaiser in the early 1980’s ...we were birthday twins ...she was an amazing Healthcare provider ...RIP Diane ..
Cindy Meza
November 27, 2020
Diane was a loving Mother and wife. I met her in New Haven our husband were very good friends in Yale medical School. We had our first children in 1959 in New Haven and exchanged baby sitting,Diane was very intelligent and fun We both lived in La Jolla eventually and continued our friendship.
Mary Berend
November 25, 2020
Good-bye, Mrs. K/Diane. My Girl Scout leader and my confidante. I could talk to her about things I couldn't talk to my own mom about. When my grandfather died, Mrs. K immediately offered to have my brother and I stay with them (we lived across the street) so that my parents could deal with everything and not worry about us. She introduced me to the world of backpacking and wilderness adventures. All those trips to the Borrego Desert and San Bernardino mountains, canoeing down the Colorado River gave me a great sense of adventure.

I'm very grateful I was able to visit with her a couple of years ago. I heard about her most recent adventures, in Africa.

I'll miss you, Mrs. K.
Becky Jones
November 21, 2020
I don't even know where to begin. I am the woman I am today because of Diane. She was not only my Girl Scout leader for numerous years, but also my mentor. She would pile a bunch of junior high/high school girls in her station wagon and take us on outdoor trips. Because of her, I learned to backpack, canoe, snow ski, water ski and much more. I have continued to do all these activities, very passionately, even to this day. I remember being one of the youngest girls she took on a backpacking trip in Borrego Desert, she said you can go, but no complaining if it gets tough. It was very hard for me slogging through the deep sand trails, even though I wanted to complain, I didn't and that is something that I continue today - no complaining!! I remember her talking about backpacking in the Sierras and showing us photos of some trips she had done there. It became my goal to go backpacking in the Sierras. She did take us on a backpacking trip to the southern Sierras once and it was amazing! I went to college in Northern California and frequently went backpacking the Sierras. I always smiled thinking back at her talking about the Sierras and how great it is that I now get to go frequently. I also have a lot of fond memories of the canoe trips on the Colorado River. Looking back it is pretty amazing what she did and how she made all these trips happen. My family was not outdoorsy or active, so without Diane, I am not sure how I would have been exposed to all the amazing actives and adventures. I think about her often and will always be grateful to this woman who shared her passions with us!
Elise Rothschild Mawhinney
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences