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Children’s hospital benefactor and community volunteer Joan Diamond dies

obit-joan-diamondJoan B. Diamond, 87, philanthropist and Jewish community volunteer, died Dec. 28, 2016.

Diamond was an early supporter of the University of Arizona Steele Children’s Research Center, which opened in 1992, and joined her husband, real estate developer Donald Diamond, in providing the lead gift to establish the Diamond Children’s Medical Center, which opened in 2010.

The Diamonds’ interest in children’s health care, particularly research on pediatric lung disease, stemmed from losing their daughter Deanne to asthma complications, says their daughter Helaine Levy.

Lynn Taussig, M.D., a pediatric pulmonologist who was the first director of the Steele Center, says “it was always a pleasurable task” to discuss plans for the center with her and Donald. Their support extended beyond Tucson and Arizona to the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, where Taussig later served as president and CEO, he adds.

Diamond was also a force for good in the Jewish community.

“Ever since I was little my mom was involved in the Jewish community” along with friends such as Carol Stern and Irene Sarver, says Levy. Diamond had served as chair of the Women’s Division of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, she says, and supported many Jewish community organizations, including Temple Emanu-El and the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

Betty Anne Sarver, whose parents Jack and Irene were longtime friends with the Diamonds, says “Joan exemplified what it means to be beautiful inside and out.”

“You could feel her presence in a room. She was gracious. I think she cared about her family, her friends, her community and Israel. She was a leader; she had wisdom and vision. There are certain people that you know are one of a kind, and when they leave there’ll be not another one like her,” says Sarver.

Diamond was also open to new ideas, says Sarver, who recalls that when she was starting an advisory board for the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the UA, “Joan was one of the first people that said yes. And that was 20 years ago.”

Her mother was very proper, says Levy, and strict about manners and getting good grades. “But my mom and my dad modeled community service and helping others. And my mom really modeled for me, personally, commitment to family and unconditional love and how to be a good daughter,” she says, especially in the way Diamond took care of her parents as they aged.

She was also a music lover and supporter of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. “We had season tickets starting when I was 6 years old,” says Levy.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Diamond attended Ferry Hall boarding school in Illinois before attending the University of Arizona, where she majored in voice and piano and met her husband-to-be, Donald.  Lacking commitment from Donald, she transferred to the University of Syracuse, but, according to an obituary supplied by the family, “her future father-in-law knocked some sense into his son Donald and told him he better marry her before she gets away.” They were married 64 years, living in New York City and Great Neck, N.Y., before returning to Tucson in 1965.

Diamond also supported the Girl Scouts, serving as a Brownie leader for her daughters, says Levy, as well as the Brewster Center, which provides support for victims of domestic violence; Angel Charity for Children; the Women’s Foundation for Southern Arizona; and Planned Parenthood.

Survivors include her husband, Donald; daughters Jennifer Diamond of Sun Valley, Idaho, and Helaine Levy of Tucson; and three grandchildren.

A private service was held, with arrangements by Evergreen Mortuary. A celebration of life will be held at a future date. Memorial donations may be made to the nonprofit of your choice.