Diane Read Haeselbarth of Edgartown died at home in the company of her family on May 17, 2017, after a brief illness. She was 85, a journalist and a pianist who never lost delight in practicing her skills, and she walked gently with genuine caring for everyone in her path.
She was born to William Marsden Read Jr. and Stephanie Thompson Read on July 20, 1931, in Maywood, N.J., and educated at local schools, Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, Upsala College, and privately in music. Gifted in music, she played the piano by ear at age 3, cherished her pupils, and composed the “Katama and Mattakesett Concerto” for piano (depicting the legend of the Vineyard’s star-crossed lovers) in 1995.
As a staff reporter for the Bergen Evening Record in Hackensack, N.J., she covered the zoning decision and preconstruction of the Bergen Mall and Garden State Plaza shopping centers, editorially voted best county news story of 1954 because the post_World War II era saw Bergen as one of the fastest growing regions in the United States. She wrote town meeting, political, police news, and feature articles, later turning to freelance writing.
She was an avocational historian and genealogist, who taught herself a rudimentary knowledge of Czech in order to research and write the family history of Christine Bucenec Thompson, her beloved maternal grandmother who had died when Diane was age 9. She had been told that the Bucenecs were an early Hussite family in Prague, and she wanted to learn more. An eight-year odyssey into Central European history left her with a strong knowledge of the Czech Hussite revolution of 1415, and conversations on this and the American Revolution will be missed.
Sailing and dinghy racing on the Hudson River were her passions in more agile years. She rarely missed a crew race when her brother, Jacques, rowed for Princeton, and together they bought a Penguin-class dinghy, christened her Sanforized, and joined the Nyack Boat Club fleet for Sunday races and regattas. There she met Victor Haeselbarth, a young engineer and surveyor who had merry, blue eyes and a forever smile (in her words).
Victor also had a Colonial genealogy that fascinated her, and a family attic that held the books and papers of the Rev. William G. Haeselbarth, his great-grandfather who founded the Rockland Journal News in Nyack, N.Y., under the banner “Light, More Light,” in 1850. Within six months of her marriage (June 24, 1961), she had read them all and begun transcribing the 17th and 18th century marriages and baptisms on a giant piece of cardboard. She loved to share and discuss history and genealogy, and to encourage others in the pursuit.
When Victor introduced her to the Vineyard, she called it “God’s adjunct to paradise.” She felt a special affinity to the dunes and wildflower plain of Katama, where they retired on June 30, 1988. She loved the Vineyard dearly.
Surviving are Victoria Haeselbarth, her daughter, and Wesley Haeselbarth, grandson, of Edgartown; Dr. Jacques B.J. Read, her brother and his wife, Janet, of Washington, D.C.; Glory M. Read, sister-in-law of Clifton, N.J.; nephews William M. Read IV (Donna) of Parsippany, N.J., Philip M. Read (the Rev. Nancy R. Read) of Wake Forest, N.C., Jacques B.J. Read Jr. (Angela), Jeremy R. Read (LeeAnn), all of Silver Spring, Md.; her great- and great-great-nephews and -nieces; and her dachshund, Hahn-Dominic.
She was predeceased by her husband, Victor Lydecker Haeselbarth, and her brothers, William M. Read III and Robert Thompson Read.
A graveside service will be held on June 24 at 11 am at the New Westside Cemetery in Edgartown, with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. 1748, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.