Remembering Diana Seale: Valued colleague and friend

On Sunday afternoon, February 13, Diana Seale was taken from us with devastating suddenness, caught in an avalanche while hiking on Mt Mainalon with a group from the Greek mountaineering club of Athens. She was 40. With this tragic turn of events high on a Peloponnesian mountainside, which also took the lives of four others, Kathimerini English Edition has lost a central player in its operations, a trusted and valued co-worker, and a friend who was refreshingly informal and uniquely different. As the shock turns to sadness, the loss seems especially great because Diana Seale was so alive, more alive than most anyone you could ever meet. She was a person of almost bottomless drive and enthusiasm about whatever she was doing. She worked hard, played hard, enjoyed a good laugh and a hearty meal, and had an insatiable curiosity about the world. I have no doubt whatsoever that she even went after her sleep with abandon. Spirited, animated, even rambunctious could describe her style; but lively will do just fine. Of mixed British and Greek parentage, Diana was reared in England, studied at the University of London, and returned to Greece as an adult. Those of us who were privileged to work with Diana for the past several years, and to get to know something of her also on a personal level, knew her as an incredibly dedicated and multi-talented colleague who was always game for a challenge or an adventure. On the job she was a vigorously hands-on copy editor – perhaps a bit too vigorous for some writers over-protective of their own prose. She took thoroughness to a new level; I doubt any other editor ever took the time, as she did, to run even the TV listings through the spell-checker. With her deep knowledge and love of language, she went after her Greek-to-English translations with gusto, bashing out her lines on a keyboard (sending at least one back to the repair shop) and producing copy that bounced with energy. She often went cheerfully beyond the call of duty, clearing out old files, updating the computerized dictionary, learning how to fill in as a proofreader when needed, handling the INADaily filings. As a writer she was modest but no less diligent, worrying about every last dot and dash in her occasional articles and more frequent book review essays, which were invariably interesting, meticulous, and cut to the essence with style. On Thursday last week – and as fate would have it, her final day at work before heading out for a long weekend – she received a warmly worded «thank-you» fax from a publisher about a book review she had recently published. She must have been pleased as punch with that, yet typically did not crow about it. In balancing all of these key roles with fierce dedication, Diana made the whole operation a better place and those in it better at their own jobs. And she certainly made it a more lively place to be. When she was out the door, an almost visible trail of energy was left behind in that room. Now she leaves a gaping hole. Everyone who worked with her no doubt has his or her own «Diana tale» to tell. Her computer sat back to back with mine, our faces separated by two monitors. Across that meter or so of desktop formica she would engage with passion over minor points of grammar (which she usually won), share jokes, talk literature and current affairs, you name it. When asked, she would talk about her most recent outing, usually spent in the mountains and nearly always on foot; even in odd moments of daydreaming (for she seemed to have a rich inner life), her gaze would be out the window overlooking Faliron Bay. She was a formidably verbal sparring partner, but whatever differences may have been expressed (and whatever the pressures of the office, which can be considerable), she never, ever bore a grudge. She was one of those largely invisible (at least to outsiders) but essential cogs in the wheel of a daily newspaper, whose name may appear only rarely in a byline yet is utterly indispensable week in, week out. Yet Diana Seale was, most assuredly, a cog in nobody’s wheel. Admirably discreet in her personal life, she was decidedly non-conformist in her approach and her values, and proud of the fact. She remained uncompromising in what she believed, even if it lost her some popularity at times, and stood her ground in any argument. She was strong in her likes and dislikes, and unlike many people remained faithful to her views. She rode her bicycle part or all the way to work, which was quite a distance, even in winter (especially in winter); she was quite happy never to own a mobile telephone. Yet she had many loves: her garden with its fruit trees, her cats, her family in England and Greece, to whom our hearts go out, and of course the great outdoors. On the evening of the accident, Sunday, the clouds in the sky outside the office at sunset were bathed in colors so brilliant that photographs were being taken of them. Someone remarked, with eerie prescience, that the clouds looked as though they had silver linings to them. If there is any possible silver lining in such a tragically premature passing of someone you worked with for years and took for granted that it would continue, it is that she died while pursuing one of her favorite activities, tramping across a steep mountainside in the deep snow during midwinter. With her boundless energy, it almost came as a surprise that she wasn’t leading the climbers rather than back in the pack, where the wall of snow caught her and four others. Diana often rushed out the door when leaving work, sometimes forgetting even to say goodbye, her mind typically racing ahead to her next task already. Whatever any of us may have wanted to say but didn’t, we’d like to say this to you now: Goodbye, Diana. We’ll miss you.