Cover photo for Diane Isabel Severin's Obituary
Diane Isabel Severin Profile Photo
1931 Diane 2023

Diane Isabel Severin

April 16, 1931 — December 20, 2023


Diane Isabel Severin was an extraordinary person. Brilliant and curious, with a quick wit and an impish smile, Diane was a woman of and for the ages - a teacher of lifeskills, a lifelong learner, athlete, and traveler. Born and raised in Gonzales, California, the fourth child of Frank and Pauline Lafranchi, Diane grew up in an era much different from the ones most of us did. She attended kindergarten in a time when teachers attempted to change her (unsuccessfully) from a left-handed person to a right-handed person, and when vaccines were administered at school on a sugar cube. Diane often shared memories of growing up in a small town, walking to school with her sisters, living less than a block from her beloved Grandma, eating milk soup, and spending summers at Fred’s Camp in Arroyo Seco. Diane grew up surrounded by her large Rianda family. She loved that she had “eighteen aunts and uncles and more than 30 cousins!” Holidays and family celebrations were all attended by a crowd. Diane always wanted to be a teacher. After graduating from Gonzales High School, she moved to Salinas to attend Hartnell College. She managed her classes while working a full time job at the Salinas City Library. At Hartnell, Diane met Doug, her future husband. From the time they met, they were mostly inseparable. Diane earned her AA degree from Hartnell in 1951 and she and Doug both attended San Jose State University. Diane achieved her Bachelor’s degree in Science and her lifetime teaching credential in Home Economics in 1954, all while working at the San Jose State University Library. Diane’s first teaching job was at a middle school in San Luis Obispo. This was the longest Diane and Doug had been apart from each other since 1949. They were married in Salinas on June 18th, 1955, and Diane moved to Watsonville to start her 50+ year teaching career in the Home Economics Department at Watsonville High School. As a new teacher in the mid-1950’s, Diane pushed against the confines of a profession led mostly by men. She never considered herself as anything but their equal. “We have the same level of education. We teach the same students. How are we any different?” was her favorite conversation starter. At Watsonville High, “Mrs. Severin” quickly became a favorite teacher and her name became shortened to “Mrs. Sev.” Her iconic yellow VW Squareback rolled around town with “MRS SEV” license plates. Diane opened Home Ec. classes to all students, and her Sports Scene Sewing class always had the longest line on Registration Day. Diane retired the first time in 1991, but she continued to work as a substitute teacher and Special Education teacher for another 23 years. Diane loved to travel. She has introduced many folks to the joys of experiencing a country and its culture. While abroad, she often arranged to visit with and eat a home cooked meal with a local family or go to local shops outside the usual tourist zones. From cooking school in Italy to trekking across Mongolia, and all points in-between, Diane embraced the cultures, cuisine, and the people of the world. Diane’s love of cooking for family expanded into a catering business that helped keep her traveling and exploring well into her retirement. An avid hiker, walker and runner, Diane trained for and completed her first marathon at age 70. She also discovered skeet shooting in her 70’s and discovered that they make left-handed shotguns and that she was a deadeye! Diane and Doug enjoyed shooting clays and hunting upland game birds. Her pheasant stew over polenta was a favorite meal to share. To stay strong and keep fit, Diane trained at Watsonville’s Body Zone gym and at age 86, set a personal best, deadlifting 120 lbs. Diane was generous with her time, her talents, and her treasures, spending countless volunteer hours at Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes, Special Olympics Basketball Tournaments, the Pajaro Valley Historical Association, and the Home Arts Department at the Santa Cruz County Fair, just to name a few. Diane Isabel Severin navigated life’s challenges with a resilience that was both profound and inspiring. Her experiences with loss only served to strengthen her compassionate spirit. In remembering Diane, we acknowledge a life defined by unwavering strength and a heart that knew no bounds in its capacity to love and give.

 Diane was predeceased by her husband, Douglas Severin, her children, Michael Severin and Nancy Severin Willheim, and her nephew, Gary LeVa. Diane is survived by her niece and nephew, Ruthie LeVa Ramsey and Steve LeVa. A service celebrating Diane’s life will be held at 11am on Thursday, January 11, 2024, at Ave Maria Memorial Chapel, 609 Main Street, Watsonville, California 95076.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Watsonville High School, Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes, Hospice of Santa Cruz County, or an organization of your choice.

To send flowers to the family in memory of Diane Isabel Severin, please visit our flower store.


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