Diane Cooley Kessler Cowden died on May 29, 2023, at her home in Davis, California at the age of 87. She passed away peacefully in her sleep with her family at her side.
She leaves her son Stephen and his wife Ann; son Ronald and his wife Sherri, granddaughter Ashlan Falletta-Cowden and her husband Sveinn Sigurdsson, grandsons Neal Falletta-Cowden, Kevin Cowden and Ross Cowden, great-grandsons Stefán Björn and Anders Kristofer Sveinsson, special family member Cherie Jarvi, niece Lisa Echols and nephews Brian Kessler, Curt Kessler, Troy Cowden and Mark Cowden.
Diane was preceded in death by her beloved husband Robert Earl Cowden in 2006, her much-loved son David Scott Cowden in 2016, her brother Bill Kessler and his wife, Lyn Kessler in 2021.
Born to Ruth and Horton Kessler on April 25, 1936 in San Diego, California where her father was stationed during his early naval career, Diane grew up living in various naval communities, including Norfolk, Virginia, Corpus Christi, Texas, San Diego and Oxnard, California during her father’s 30-year military career until they settled in Coronado, California.
Diagnosed with rheumatic fever when she was five years old, Diane was ordered to have complete bed rest. Her parents were told to enjoy her while they had her because the doctor felt she wouldn’t reach her sixth birthday. Amazingly, three years later, her parents were told that she no longer needed bed rest, at the same time warning them that she shouldn’t be allowed to get over-tired. Her school physical education classes were then restricted to table tennis, jacks, croquet, horseshoes, and exercising.
She graduated from Oxnard Union High School in 1953, attended San Diego State College, then transferred to the University of California at Davis to attend with a high school friend. It was there that she met her future husband “Bob”. He often kidded that he didn’t know whether it was her red hair or her ’46 Ford convertible that he had fallen in love with.
Diane earned an Associate of Arts degree before marrying Bob in Reno, Nevada. They raised their family in Davis where Bob was on the University’s Agricultural Engineering staff. In addition to typing thesis for University Master’s and Doctoral candidates, Diane was active in the University’s “Temp” pool, doing clerical work in various departmental offices.
Because their sons were so involved with aquatic sports—both the Davis Aquadart swim team and the high school’s swim and water polo teams, it’s not surprising that later both Diane and Bob joined the Davis Masters swim program.
When Bob retired from the University in 1986, they moved to a lakeside home they had designed in northeast Oregon on the shores of Wallowa Lake. They enjoyed fishing for Kokanee salmon in front of their lakefront home and also made an annual trip in the fall to fish for King and Silver salmon out of Sekiu, Washington on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Interestingly, Diane consistently out-fished Bob who insisted that he enjoyed being her fishing guide.
During their retirement years Diane spent many happy hours digitally editing pictures she had taken and was an active member of the county hospital’s auxiliary. She was also a member of the local PEO chapter, a philanthropic organization of women whose goal is to raise money for scholarships, grants, awards and loans to aid in the educational advancement of women. She also actively supported Bob’s interest in trapshooting and they enjoyed traveling in their 5th wheel trailer to many competitions in Nevada, Washington, Montana and Oregon until his death in 2006.
She began spending half of each year at her Oregon home, the other half at the Davis home her son Ron had found for her just one block away from his family’s house. Still interested in PEO goals, she became active in the Davis’ chapter SE of the organization.
Just days after returning to her Wallowa Lake home, in June 2016 a sudden medical emergency necessitated that she be airlifted from NE Oregon to a Washington hospital. After over 70 years her rheumatic heart disease was taking a turn for the worse. Encouraged by her sons she moved back to Davis where she lived till her death.
A private memorial service will be held next year on an Oregon mountain near her lake home. At that time her ashes will be scattered with those of her husband and son.
An Open House will be held on Saturday, July 1,2023 from 10:00am to 1:00pm at Ron and Sherri Cowden's house:
207 Cortez Avenue; Davis, CA 95616.