Diane Christine Ronning Halbrook, 76, died peacefully under hospice care at Wesley Acres on Sept. 15, 2023.
Diane was born in 1947 in Chicago, the first child of John A. and Leila Southard Ronning. Growing up in Hinsdale, Diane graduated from Hinsdale Central High School. Following two generations of her family, she attended St. Olaf College, earning her bachelor's in 1969. After three years teaching home economics, she enrolled in graduate studies at Iowa State University. There, she met her future husband, Steve Halbrook, and completed both her master's and doctoral degrees in educational administration.
Steve and Diane married in 1975 and moved to Des Moines. While Steve attended law school, Diane worked for the Iowa Department of Public Instruction, supporting home economics programs in Iowa schools.
Son John was born in Des Moines and daughter Ann two years later after the family relocated to northern Virginia. There, Diane worked as an educational consultant and later became the managing director of the Alexandria Community Y.
In 1988, she was selected to participate in the renowned Kellogg Foundation National Fellowship Program. With Steve's unwavering support, she was able to travel and study extensively in China, Africa and Latin America, while continuing to work and parent. At a time when most had to choose between family and career, Diane did it all.
In 1991, the family moved to Diane's hometown of Hinsdale, where she continued her work in nonprofit organizations. Diane was one of the first women active in Rotary International in both Virginia and suburban Chicago. She was consistently active in community affairs and served as president of the Garden Club of Hinsdale. She was a Scout leader, an advocate for the underserved, a fighter of justice and a friend and mentor to anyone she met.
Diane loved live music - especially Jimmy Buffett, Pink Martini, her beloved St. Olaf Choir and Rod Stewart, whom she was thrilled to shake hands with one day in Palm Beach, Fla. She enjoyed a Pink Martini concert this past March, just days before her health began to fail.
Diane was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004. Even as her mobility diminished, she remained active and continued to travel, especially to Florida and the family fishing cabin.
She was an avid genealogist and loved discovering family history.
In 2008, Diane and Steve relocated to Arkansas. There, Steve served as a professor and administrator at the University of Arkansas. Diane became a listening ear for graduate students far away from home. She jumped into the Fayetteville community, becoming active in PEO. She made scores of friends and loved the arts and Razorback baseball.
After Steve retired in 2019, Diane and Steve moved back to Des Moines to be near their kids and grandkids. Diane's mobility continued to decline, but her love for her family and friends was unrelenting.
Diane is survived by her husband Steve; her son, John (Christine); her daughter, Ann (Garrett) Schmid; her grandchildren, James Halbrook, Sophia Halbrook, Nels Schmid and Gedde Schmid; her brother, David (Kerry) Ronning; her sister, Karen (Curt) Lang; six nieces and nephews; and 16 great-nieces and -nephews.
Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, at Saint Timothy's Episcopal Church, 1020 24th St., West Des Moines, Iowa.
Diane may be remembered with flowers or donations to the Ronning Family scholarship fund at St. Olaf College, 1520 St. Olaf Ave., Northfield, MN 55057; the scholarship fund of the College of Human Sciences at Iowa State, 2155 Lagomarcino Hall, 901 Stange Road, Ames, IA 50011; or a charity that supports underserved communities or champion women's education.