Diana Dure-Biondi, long time Santa Cruz resident, world traveler, enthusiast of nature, teacher of love and compassion, has passed on to a new journey, leaving behind her battle with Alzheimer’s on November 4, 2020.
Diana was born to John and Darlene Biondi in Watsonville, CA on December 21, 1960 and spent her childhood and teen years in Santa Cruz. She attended Westlake Elementary and was second out of three generations to graduate from Mission Hill Middle School. After graduating from Harbor High in 1979, she spent time working in both Hawaii and Lake Tahoe, enjoying the natural beauty in a few of her favorite places.
Diana went on to UC Santa Barbara, where she studied Marine Biology. Forever learning and traveling, her next adventure led her to Paris for a year, where she received a Certificate in French Language at the Sorbonne University in Paris. It was in Paris that she fell in love with the study of literature and philosophy.
Returning to Santa Cruz, Diana continued her studies and quest for knowledge, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from UC Santa Cruz in 1986. It was here that she met Mark Dure-Smith whom she married on July 8, 1989.
After graduation, she moved up to San Francisco to a flat on the corner of Haight and Asbury. Enjoying the culture, she found the perfect job, managing the Green Apple Bookstore, which was and remains one of the great independent bookstores and a haven for those who love the musty smell and feel of a neighborhood place overflowing with new and used books. She wore vintage clothing bought on consignment and, for a year, only read books written by female authors.
Two years later, Mark and Diana sold all their belongings, bought a VW van, and traipsed through Mexico and Guatemala for a year, spending a month at the ruins of Tikal when the van broke down.
After returning to California, Diana continued her studies, teaching advanced reading and writing and cross-cultural communication to foreign students at San Francisco State University while pursuing and achieving a Master of Arts in English in 1992.
Not her style to stay put for too long, it was off to Japan, where Diana and Mark spent three years teaching at the Kanda University of International Studies in Tokyo. It was in Tokyo where the joy of her life, her daughter Isabella Dure-Biondi, was born on July 13, 1993.
While living in Japan, she continued to travel, going to many countries in Asia and the South Pacific, including memorable trips to Indonesia (including the jungles of Sumatra), Malaysia, Singapore, and an around-the-world trip including New Zealand, Switzerland, and the UK. When Izzy was just 4 months old, Diana took her alone to Bali for two months.
Soon after returning back to CA in 1998, she separated from Mark Dure-Smith and began a new phase in her life.
Diana was always one to help others and found a great path to do so by launching her studies in psychology, receiving her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from John F Kennedy University in 2002. During that time, she spent three happy years in a relationship with Jonathan Harris. Together Diana, Jonathan, Izzy and their dog Maya spent most weekends and holidays in their VW van, traveling all over the West Coast, including Bolinas, Death Valley, and down to Baja, Mexico.
From there, it was back to Santa Cruz where she put her skills to use helping others in need through her work at the Parent Center, counseling families and child welfare cases. In addition to this work, Diana opened her own private counseling practice. Countless families in Santa Cruz are together due in large part to the counselling, advocacy, and compassion of Diana. Their appreciation was evident in those many times in public, when former clients would pop up out of nowhere, giving thanks and showing gratitude.
Diana had a very special bond with her daughter Izzy. Raising her as a single mother, they often enjoyed doing art projects together, gardening, baking, and watching Criminal Minds. Diana was also loving and supportive of Izzy’s friends, and she opened up her house and her heart to them when they needed it. Throughout Izzy’s education Diana was a great advocate for her daughter’s needs and happiness. It was during this time that Diana became ill with Hepatitis-C and a case of spinal meningitis. Once Diana’s illness was cured after a rather grueling course of treatment, Diana’s father John took his wife Gina, Diana and Izzy together to Ecuador and Peru.
In 2006, Diana met her lovish Mark Lippert. On their first date at Soif, Diana asked if Mark would be willing to go to Morocco, and Mark’s response wasn’t just “yes”, but “I can be ready in two weeks”. This was a match made in heaven. It took another year to happen, but in 2007, they flew off with backpacks, no reservations, and a mutual sense of adventure, exploring Fez, Marrakesh, the Mediterranean coast and embarking on an incredible camel trek into the Sahara.
When they started dating, their first weekend away was to one of their favorite places, Big Sur. They spent the weekend climbing Mt Manuel, watching condors, and having a romantic dinner at Nepenthe. Many more adventures followed, including multiple trips to Tulum, San Miguel de Allende, Baja, and visiting Diana’s father and step mom in Maui.
With separate homes no longer an option, Mark and Diana bought a wonderful house together in Pasatiempo, raising their combined family and, after an impromptu marriage proposal at Nepenthe, they were married at their home on June 22, 2013.
Local travel and staying active was also a large part of their lives. Diana enjoyed running all of her life, competing in trail races and a few half-marathons until she made a huge leap, completing a 50K up in Auburn.
One thing she could do better than run, was to ski. Diana, Mark and Izzy enjoyed many great trips up to Truckee to ski at Squaw Valley, with Mark and Izzy doing their best to keep up with Diana.
Mark and Diana also spent a lot of time in Yosemite. They took several climbs to the top of Half Dome and Clouds Rest. Their favorite was backpacking deep into the wilderness, traversing along the Tuolumne River, taking countless photographs, watching the bears and the deer, and swimming in hidden pools.
Diana’s spirituality was also a big part of her life. She was a student of Buddhism and longtime member of Insight Santa Cruz. Her studies and training included many seminars and retreats at Mt. Madonna and Spirit Rock. She and Mark assisted, and later led, many couple therapy groups in council practice.
Once she received her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Diana continued living and helping. She participated clinical trials at UCSF, not just for her, but to help others in the search for an eventual cure. She enjoyed life until the end. She and Mark continued their travels to Maui and, in spite of the advancing disease, she skied expert runs all the way through her last season. Trips to the Mountain Winery to picnic on the grounds and see live music also continued into her last days. She definitely got the most out of her days on this earth and will be profoundly missed by all whom she has touched.
Diana is survived by her father, John (and Gina) Biondi of Lahaina, Hawaii and her mother Darlene Biondi (and Frank Casas) of Santa Cruz; her daughter Isabella of Oakland; her husband Mark Lippert and family Nicholas, Max and Moorea; her brother Richard Biondi and family Sammy and Giovanni; sister Laura Williams and family Chrissy and Nicole (and Alex and grandnephews Ronan, Sawyer and Willie).
Memorial gifts in Diana’s memory can be made to the Walnut Avenue Family and Women’s Center, 303 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA.
Arrangements are being handled by Benito & Azzaro, Santa Cruz, CA. To express your condolences or to share a remembrance with Diana’s family, please visit www.pacificgardenschapel.com.
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