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Obituary of Diane L. Robertson
Diane Robertson, graphic designer, cat lover, and lovable curmudgeon, passed on from this life on February 23, 2023 in Olympia, Washington. She will be remembered for her exquisite taste, wicked sense of humor, unparalleled design sense, and the spectacular parties she hosted at her beautiful home of more than 40 years on Springwood.
Diane Lucille Petresky began life as a Jersey girl, born in Plainfield, New Jersey, in 1948 to a World War II veteran father and his Australian war bride. Her unbreakable spirit evident at an early age, Diane proved quite vexing to the nuns at her Catholic schools. Her parents eventually relented, allowing her to finish her education in public school where her wild nature and curiosity were better appreciated.
She earned her B.A. from an art college in Manhattan before marrying Charlie Robertson, another Jersey kid who by then had completed his service in Vietnam. Diane worked in the art department at a series of print shops and newspapers while Charlie pursued a degree in environmental studies and planning, first in Fort Collins, Colorado, and eventually at The Evergreen State College. It was here that Diane and Charlie found their “tribe” and purchased their home in a secluded spot off Bethel Street.
Suddenly widowed at the age of 30, Diane embarked on an unexpected new life that saw her design career blossom and her friendships expand and deepen. Her friends were as odd and eccentric as Diane. She was attracted to people who were unusual, kind, and exceptionally fun. She did not suffer fools gladly.
Diane was a master of visual communication. Her use of typography, color, scale, photography, and illustration combined to create elegant, strong, and often playful print pieces. Her career included stints at the Lacey Leader, Timberland Regional Library System, Department of Transportation, and Office of Financial Management. She eventually joined the political consulting firm TR Strategies, where her work boosted the campaigns of many successful candidates.
Friends relied on Diane for her strong design sensibilities for home renovation, color and decor decisions. She was generous with her talents. She had impeccable taste. She would draw upon her degree in fashion illustration to occasionally grab a friend and rearrange a scarf or suggest alterations for a better fit. If she had a tombstone it would be engraved with the words, “No cropped or cargo pants!”
Anyone who knew Diane knows that she loved a man in a uniform. Her two husbands—Charlie Robertson and Jeff Skeens—were soldiers. She absolutely loved trips to Joint Base Lewis McCord and shopping at the commissary. She felt certain that she was a warrior—or was closely connected to one—in a past life.
Upon her retirement, Diane remained active at the downtown Y. She traveled with friends and made new ones through the Road Scholar education and travel program. In her 30s, Diane became a highly competent sailor, and helped her dear friend, Ron Arens, sail his boat Dancer from Olympia through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, down the Pacific Coast, around the tip of the Baja Peninsula and into the Sea of Cortez. Over the years, she made many trips to meet up with Ron in the U.S. Virgin Islands and sail around the Caribbean.
Additional destinations included road trips through New Mexico, rafting the Grand Canyon, and five-day retreats at the Land of Medicine Buddha Retreat Center in Santa Cruz, California.
Another favorite destination was Palm Springs, where she and her motley crew of close girlfriends rented swanky mid-century modern homes, floated in sun drenched pools, and sipped Manhattans at The Tropicale. They dubbed themselves the Palm Springs Five: Diane, Janet McLane, Rhonda Brooks, Heidi Keller and Joanie Pop. It was the P.S. four who tended to Diane when she developed an unusually aggressive form of skin cancer. They saw to it that she was able to spend her final months at her beloved home.
In the will that she wrote in 2010, Diane’s instructions to Janet, Rhonda, and Heidi are as creative as the life she led:
What to do with my ashes. My will states that I be cremated and my ashes scattered in the Gifford-Pinchot. I’m an earth sign after all…love the water, but must return to the earth. So here’s what I’m thinking…Hopefully there will be enough money for you to rent a really nice, fast, convertible. (Don’t waste money on an urn or anything.) Wait for a really nice day, (I may have to be in someone’s closet in a shoe box or something until the weather cooperates), perhaps make a weekend out of it…Take a drive through the forest with the top down, when you see a suitable stretch of road punch the accelerator, open me up and let me go…hopefully some of me will get to glide over the smooth, shiny surface of the car, fall to the road and get washed into the forest, eventually. I’ve always loved to drive. I have always loved cars. I can’t think of a better ash delivery system.
Have the music turned up loud. “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison would be a good choice. And if you are all wearing sunglasses, and scarves are flying in the breeze, all the better!
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