Diane Johnson Handloser, loving wife, mother, teacher, and friend died on Monday December 1, 2015 from metastatic breast cancer. She was a kind, gentle soul who enriched the lives of everyone she knew.
Diane was born on July 22, 1944, to Ovie and Lucille Johnson of Salinas, California. She had a very loving childhood, which gave her a fundamental sense of security and happiness.
When she was 12 years old, the family moved from San Jose to Rancho Cordova, California where she attended Folsom High School. She earned a BA degree from UC Davis in Political Science with a minor in French. On a UC Junior Year Abroad program she spent a year in Bordeaux, France where she met her French pen pal who would become her life long friend. During that year, Diane fell in love with the art of the museums and cathedrals, which led to a Master’s Degree in Art History from UCLA in 1970.
When it was time to look for a job, Diane found her dream assignment at Santa Barbara City College and she began a 39 year career teaching Art History. She loved her colleagues, loved being with young people, loved teaching, loved being ‘on the stage’ behind the podium talking about the thing she loved best. Her interest and love of the subject created an enthusiastic audience on campus, which in 1991 voted her that year’s Faculty Lecturer. She retired in 2009.
While she was in the first year of teaching at SBCC, she met her husband to be. They were married in 1973 and he was the love of her life, all of her life. They shared their love of Paris, antiques, swap meets, music, and of restoring their old Spanish Colonial Santa Barbara house. In the late 70’s they bicycled for 6 months thru Europe during one of Diane’s sabbaticals, photographing art and architecture. She used the slides in her art classes and shared them with other faculty members for the rest of her career.
They were blessed with two daughters, Hope and Gretchen. They missed the girls when they left home eventually but were pleasantly surprised by how equally wonderful it is to have adult children with the joyus addition of sons-in-law and grandchildren.
Diane was a fabulous mother, always putting aside her work to help her children when they were young, teenagers, adults, or parents of their own. She went to all the children’s plays, sings, dances, and matches. She taught them the importance of being a kind person, a loyal friend, and most of all taught them to be loving parents through her shining example. She was always there to offer advice or just listen to her children from their childhood through parenthood. She generously praised them for being good mothers and they were since they had the best teacher in the world as a guide. Diane was able to provide her children with a loving support system, something they are eternally grateful for. They also fondly remember their own childhood and how wonderful Diane was to them growing up.
After retirement, Diane wanted to lead a more private life, one that didn’t involve standing in front of hundreds of students as an authority figure so she pursued plein air painting, working in the landscape, looking carefully at nature and trying to capture its essence. She loved painting and studied it diligently, worked hard, and learned very fast as a result of years of looking at the world’s best art. In a few years, she became much more than an amateur painter, exhibiting her work in several shows.
In retirement, Diane also began volunteering for Hospice of Santa Barbara. She learned so much in the years that she volunteered, meeting many wonderful and courageous people at an important moment in their lives. These experiences gave her courage as she faced her own death.
During her first round of breast cancer in 1989, Diane began seriously studying Buddhism. It guided her ever since, as she tried to live a more conscious life. She believed that every person is fundamentally good; she believed that we can choose happiness; she believed in the importance of kindness. Her study of Buddhism also taught her to be aware of all the things that bring her joy each day such as a cup of tea and a pause mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Diane was one of those rare persons who actually listened when you spoke. She used her years of learning Buddhism to be compassionate and loving to everyone she met. Many friends, colleagues, and family were blessed with her mastery of knowing what to say to help them. One line of her favorite poem that showed her devotion was: “May I help others to be free”. At her Memorial, many people testified to that devotion. Because she cared and listened so well everyone loved her deeply.
Diane is survived by her husband, John Handloser; by their children, Hope Adams and Gretchen Dobrowolski, by 4 grandchildren, by her parents Lucille and Ovie Johnson, and by many, many dear friends. A memorial was held for her on December 12, 2015. She asked donations be made to a compassionate worthy cause in place of flowers.