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Doris Diether Birthday Bashes were parties like no other

BY SHARON WOOLUMS | It is with deep sadness that I learned of Doris Diether’s passing on Thursday. Doris was a dear friend, a confidante and a mentor. Many times with her impish smile she pushed me in the kindest gentlest way to have confidence in abilities I might never have known I had.

It was hard not to adore Doris…unless you were on the wrong side of an issue! But she was always on the side of you as a person and wanted you to do well and would help you to get there! I think that will be an important part of Doris’s legacy — how she encouraged so many.

Doris was also my personal fashion consultant! She rarely gave advice if not asked but sure would let me know if I was not properly color coordinated! With an upside-down grin I got admonished!

Doris notoriously was always perfectly matched and beautifully coiffed. But in her floral prints and skirts, Doris armed with knowledge, with her lipstick and pearls, could do more damage to a bad idea than a consulting firm full of men in suits. She did shy away from politics and few knew she was a Republican, “a Rockefeller Republican,” she would retort.

Sharon Woolums giving the opening remarks at Doris Diether’s 90th birthday party. (Courtesy Sharon Woolums)

Thirteen years ago when Doris told me she had no plans for her 80th birthday, I formed the DDBB (Doris Diether Birthday Bash) Committee because I knew it would take a village to celebrate one who WAS the Village. Everybody wanted to participate and did in miraculous way. The DDBB Committee then did it all over again for her 90th birthday.

Nobody said no to anything because Doris had a lot of fans. On a zero-dollar budget our community threw, as was described by many, the party of the year. Below are my opening remarks at that party, meant to explain why I, the DDBB Committee, Judson Memorial Church, Community Board 2, park folk — everybody! — thought it important to celebrate our beloved friend and also thank her for her myriad contributions to our town.

State Senator Brad Hoylman kissing the girl of honor. (Courtesy Brad Hoylman’s Office)

Love was swirling all around that glorious night as we danced to songs composed for Doris by her biggest fans — the fab musicians of Washington Square Park, who recognized her as the undisputed Queen of the Park. And delicious food, champagne and wine, contributions by many neighborhood restaurants, were enjoyed by all.

Every time I entered Washington Square Park my first thought was to look for Doris. When I found her I knew it would be a lovely encounter that would brighten my day because Doris’s heart was big and she was generous of spirit.

Sharon Woolums with Doris Diether when Diether was doing a rehab stint at VillageCare. (Courtesy Sharon Woolums)

I will always look for her in the park and remember that spirit in my heart now heavy with grief. But I know it will brighten with memories every corner I turn…because Doris’s footprints are all over the Village. And though her shoe size was small, nobody can fill those slippers.

Doris was an integral part of the very fabric of this community. She was the gold thread in a patchwork quilt — a crazy quilt that is Greenwich Village. It is the end of an era — a beautiful magical chapter of Greenwich Village history has ended.

I asked David Amram to do a tribute to Doris at The Village Trip festival honoring the history and heritage of Greenwich Village this weekend on my block, W. Eighth Street. He readily accepted the opportunity to honor Doris. They were good friends and Amram played at Doris’s 80th birthday bash. Come by around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, and we’ll celebrate her life and be grateful that she was here and will now become an important part of the legacy of our great Greenwich Village.

Opening remarks from the Jan. 10, 2019, Doris Diether Birthday Bash (DDBB):

Good evening! I’m Sharon Woolums, the chairperson of the Doris Diether Birthday Bash Committee, and it’s my honor on behalf of the DDBB Committee and our host, Judson Church, to welcome Doris’s friends and her many families — her Judson family, her community board family, her Washington Square Park family, her fan club and last but not least her many boyfriends.

Doris Diether and the Doris Diether Birthday Bash Committee, from left, Suzanne Schropp, Sharon Woolums, “The Queen of Washington Square Park” Doris Diether, Hellen Osgood and Erin Rogers. (Courtesy Sharon Woolums)

We’re gathered tonight in this beautiful space to honor Doris, a friend, a neighbor and comrade in arms, because she’s honored us not just by her enduring accomplishments — but for brightening our day. Running into Doris will put a smile on your face.

So we’re here for many reasons. How do we love thee Doris? Let us count the ways — tonight!

Certainly deserving of praise is Doris’s decades of public service — the victories we know about but also what we didn’t see — the countless private hours researching, the patient study that earned her the title of New York’s zoning maven, all achieved without the relevant college degree!

We want to honor what it took to win that seat at the table with the men in suits. Our Doris, in her pretty floral-print blouses with the perfect earrings and lipstick to match, earned a place at the table where women in those days were rarely invited. Our city benefited immeasurably from the beautiful sweet lady…tough as her well-manicured nails and fearless to take on the twice-as-tall powers when they proposed potentially detrimental deeds against community interests.

Doris asks the tough questions that no one else does because of what she knows — because her diligent study paid off. It’s rare to find an individual who has no political ambition, is not running for office, who has no hidden agenda and who just wants what’s best for her community and is ready to give her all.

We hope by honoring this wonderful lady tonight you might also be inspired to follow in Doris’s footsteps. You may have ideas, yet be reticent to take that step — but these are dire times and we’re so glad Doris, so many years ago, you made your way to our town unafraid to step forward and make a difference.

So tonight we have quite an agenda. Our elected officials wish to pay tribute! Then — a very special treat — The Washington Square Super Stars. They’re the talented musicians who entertain us in the park. Doris is one of their biggest fans and they know Ms. Diether is the indisputable Queen of Washington Square Park.

5 Comments

  1. Jane E Lucas Jane E Lucas September 18, 2021

    Thank you, Sharon. Doris will be missed. You did a great job of helping us remember this very special person.

  2. Rosalind Gnatt Rosalind Gnatt September 19, 2021

    Doris’s bright smile will live in my memory. Thank you, Sharon. Thank you Judson, for taking me in and bringing such treasures as Doris into my life.

  3. John Bredin John Bredin September 19, 2021

    Thank you so much Sharon for this beautiful remembrance of Doris. It wonderfully captures not only her important activism, but the magic of her personality…the gift of her presence, which touched the lives of so many. Including citizens, politicians…and a puppeteer! This essay is a masterpiece. You did your dear friend, and mentor, a great justice here.

  4. Suzanne Dickerson Suzanne Dickerson September 20, 2021

    A wonderful tribute. We all loved Doris, but you carried your love into action so many times.

  5. Jody Blanch Jody Blanch October 11, 2021

    A wonderful tribute to such an amazing person! Doris will be missed!

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