January 9, 1923 – May 25, 2013
With her family at her bedside, and supported by the compassionate staff at Eagleview Care Unit,
St. Joseph’s Hospital, Comox, BC, Diana passed away on Saturday, May 25, at the age of 90.
She is survived by her loving family, Kathryn, and her daughter Lindell; Edith (Peter) DeGreef and their children Christina, James and Joanna; Nancy (Al) Newton and their family, Natasha (Colby); Alexa (Nick); Chris (Jaymie) and Craig (Chelsey); and Daphne (Walter) Lang. She had fifteen great grand-children, Brae, Kaylin, Karley, Noah, Scott, Joey, Annika, Jaimie, Lex, Kaylea, Miley, Katelyn, Teegan, Sebastian and Alivia, aged 15 years to 20 months. Her brother Reg (Aleta) and her sister Isabel, live in Black Diamond, Alberta.
Born in High River, Alberta, “Val” was the eldest daughter of Frank and Marjorie Swan. She and her siblings spent their early lives on the family ranch nestled among the foothills of SW Alberta near Longview. Their formal schooling was done by live-in tutors, but the education they loved best was found outdoors. They learned to ride horses at a young age and to recognize and love the plants and animals they saw as they rode the rolling hills and gullies for miles, trailing cattle and visiting friends on surrounding ranches. Family friends included well known author Raymond Patterson and Bert Shepherd, rancher and author. Recently the Swan family were awarded with an OH Ranch Society certificate for their contributions to the early ranching industry in Southwestern Alberta.
Diana married James Maloff in 1944 and began married life in a small vine-covered shack on the shores of the Highwood River. From there they followed the booming oil industry to Leduc, Calmar and Edmonton, then coal mining in Luscar and ice fishing in Seba Beach, Alberta. Diana was forty when Jim decided to try his hand at salmon fishing based out of Prince Rupert, so the family immigrated to beautiful BC in the summer of 1963. Working first in salmon canneries and later as a guide at the Prince Rupert Museum, Mum’s love of nature transferred to the flora and fauna of coastal British Columbia, especially the birds, and grew extensively during the next fifty years in BC.
Eventually they relocated to the Comox Valley where Jim continued to fish commercially and Diana joined the Comox Valley Naturalist Society and the Trumpeter Swan Society. She became coordinator for the weekly trumpeter swan count during the months that the swans took up residence in the Comox Valley, sending the numbers to Ducks Unlimited so they could assess damage and needs of local farmers upon whose farms the swans grazed. Known for her love of teaching about the birds, Diana was happy to share her knowledge at valley schools and to lead ElderCollege participants on bird watching walks. She was an avid supporter of Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society and also helped in trying to protect important wildlife sites against incursions by developers and invasive plants such as purple loosestrife and Scotch broom.
Mum’s final years were spent at Berwick Independent Living Residence where she took great pleasure in helping out with the plants in the beautiful garden room and roof garden and answering questions about birds, including emails from friends of her daughters, also nature lovers. In latter years when she had to use a walker, she still found great joy in listening to birdsong, hand feeding the chickadees and nuthatches at Lazo Marsh and watching nature programs on tv. “The Byrd Lady” will be grievously missed by everyone, but will be present in spirit whenever those who knew her see and hear her beloved birds.
Diana’s service will be held at 2pm on Saturday, June 1 at Comox Valley Funeral Home, 1101 Ryan Road, Courtenay. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, 6817 Headquarters Road, Merville, BC, V9J 1N2.