memories of Diane Callon by Helen D. Gunderson

In my class (1963) there was the twin set of Dennis and Diane Callon. They joined our class late, perhaps in eighth grade, after attending country school prior to that year. I think theirs was one of the last country schools in the area. It was slightly south of Rolfe then a couple miles west. Dennis still farms on the family farm, but Diane is deceased. I believe she was the head oncology nurse at the University of Iowa Hospitals. I know she died of cancer in the mid-1990s.

In basketball, Diane played guard and probably wasnít a starter until her junior or senior year. I was a forward and got to start several games in my sophomore year because a leading forward from DMT got pregnant and quit school. I think one of the main things I remember about Diane is that she was very loyal. I think she enjoyed me as a friend and fellow basketball player. I can recall often that during one-on-one scrimmaging at the beginning of practice before the coach was there, that Diane and I would seek each other out. She was quick and smart as a guard, and even though I was much taller, she was a challenge to get past. Itís interesting the things a person remembers. I recall her converse tennis shoes and rolled down bobby socks (or perhaps sports socks). I never did like the rolled down look. Now as I think of it, I canít recall if she had rolled down socks for basketball or simply as part of her school dress. I can recall her with rolled down bobby socks, straight skirt, and a light blue, cashmere-like sweater. She also had blonde hair that was permed and wore pointed eye glasses typical of the era. I donít think she ever held a grudge that I got to be a basketball starter earlier and more often than she did. Like I say, she was a loyal friend. I canít think of why I choose the word "loyal." Itís not a term I use for many friends.

It was neat because up until the time I knew her, most of my friends were from town and were immersed in music. I did have another country friend who lived out in the Gunderson and Callon area of the country, but that family kept pretty much to themselves outside of school. Anyway, I recall several fall evenings after school, going over to the Callon farm and playing touch football with Dennis and Diane. It wasnít like I ever went inside their house much because I knew I had to get home for dinner. But we had some fun times, just the three of us, playing football in the yard. Itís hard to figure out how that happened since Dennis was out for football and would have had practice after school..

Perhaps one of my best memories of Diane has to do with a biology class we took as seniors. To some people in the school system, it was probably referred to simply as Biology II, but we knew the course to be Human Physiology (and perhaps anatomy). Mr. Head, the girls basketball coach who came to Rolfe when we were juniors, taught the course. We really liked him. There were perhaps only six of us in the class, and it was very informal. Jack (Mr. Head's first name) was a friendly person and realized we were all there to learn. During one phase of the class, he let two of us at a time team together to write the tests for the class. Perhaps I knew at the time that Diane was planning to go into nursing, but it wasn't readily apparent. I just knew that we both really liked the course format and content. And she was very knowledgeable about the subject matter. We both enjoyed the challenge of preparing one of the tests.

One time, Mr. Head indicated it would be nice to have pigeons for lab experiments for the introductory biology class, so Diane and I volunteered to get some. I remember the nights when we tried to catch pigeons. One time, we went to the corn crib on the Gunderson farm but had no success. I think it was the next night at the Callon farm that we lucked out and actually bagged some pigeons. I wish I could recall more of the details. It seems we used an old gunny sack. Anyway, it was quite an adventure. The next day, we delivered the pigeons to the biology room, and Mr. Head put them in a cage. Perhaps there were four pigeons in all. It was disheartening that he didn't use them as soon as we thought he would. In fact, he ended up not using them for the Biology I class. So that meant that we had caged up pigeons for a long time. I would often feed them during my seventh period study hall. Almost all the girls during that hour were in glee club which I decided to skip in my senior year. I had begun to realize I didn't have to participate in it just because all the other girls were in the group. But those were also the rigid days of Miss Marcum, and I had to ask her permission to leave study hall to go to the biology room and feed the pigeons. And if I lingered in the lab (just down the 3rd floor hall on the east side of the building) talking to Mr. Head or learning other things about science, Miss Marcum would come and sternly instruct me to return to her study hall.

The pigeons were confined for several weeks, and there was a pecking order which meant that some of the pigeons started looking pretty ugly. Finally, it was time in our physiology class that we could use the pigeons for some experiments. I am sure that a humane society would not approve of confining the birds nor our experiments on them. Earlier in the year, we had dissected cats, but they had come in formaldehyde in plastic bags from scientific supply companies, and had no living qualities. I had probably killed animals before that time such as chickens for a 4-H project but our experiment with the pigeons was different. What we did was to anesthetize a pigeon (can't remember how) and then clear some feathers and cut open the breast area so we could see the heart beat. That was pretty awesome but also eerie. I think even then we had mixed feelings about the abuse of the birds.

I mention the story not to be gory, but because it started out with Diane and me taking initiative, then being adventuresome, and then being young scientists and doing very well in the course. It didn't surprise me that Diane studied nursing and was very good at her career.

The last time I saw Diane was in May of 1990 at her niece Sandi Callon's graduation from Rolfe when the school held its last commencement exercises. Diane seemed to be in remission from cancer. I regret I never got in touch with her again. After her death, I wrote to her mom Irene Callon and brother Dennis. Then Irene sent a note and the clipping from the Iowa City paper about Diane. I was moved to tears when I read that the flags at the University of Iowa Hospitals flew at half mast in recognition of her death. I often wondered whether her cancer was in part related to her work in radiation. Regardless of the cause, I suspected she had made a commitment to a career and was not only competent at it but loyal and personable.

As we get older and more distant from the days that we walked the halls of Rolfe High School as students, issues of mortality thicken the lenses through which we view life. Even if uncomfortable, those lenses make us see things differently. They magnify the shadows, and that is good since shadows enrich our lives just as the shadows in a portrait add character to a person or shadows in a landscape painting add dimension to a scene in nature.

Itís neat to remember Diane. Her friendship was an important part of my high school days. Her memory is an important part of my life now.