Diana C Samargin - 92
12/2/1927 - 2/29/2020
Diana Catherine Samargin (nee Ciochetti) was famous for her family vacation “shortcuts” which often took twice as long to get anywhere. Somehow, her sense of adventure always squeezed into the family’s Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon.
Her high-octane life followed the same route – 92 years of scenic overlooks, insatiable curiosity, and unplanned adventures. For Diana, it was always about the journey, not the arrival time.
During one unforgettable family vacation in the early 1970s, one of Diana’s shortcuts took her family to the swamplands near Orlando, Florida. Outside a mysterious gated entrance, everyone looked at each other in bewilderment. Diana asked with a knowing smile, “Isn’t Walt Disney building something here?”
While other women would be happy with a Scrabble game, Diana would suggest snorkeling or deep-sea fishing. One of her “happy places” was Islamorada in the Florida Keys where Captain Skip always remembered her. At Yellowstone National Park, she stared down a massive bison just feet away from a sign stating, “Do Not Feed the Bison.” That bison ended up retreating.
George Halas had nothing on Diana, a lifelong Chicago Bears fan who often gave coaching advice to her younger brother at Fenger High School in Chicago. She’d run up and down the sidelines yelling instructions at him. He’d yell back, “Dee, get off the field!” Later in life, Diana filmed every one of her son’s football games at Thornridge High School in Dolton for reasons unknown to this day and those tapes have yet to be watched. In the offseason, Diana was a favorite of all of her children’s friends and always enjoyed learning something new. Once she played the lead role in “Gypsy Rose Lee” at Dolton’s local community theater. There was nothing she wouldn’t try once, except maybe skydiving as she was afraid of heights.
Diana never met a crossword puzzle she couldn’t complete, with a pen. (Pencils were for novices.) She loved reading biographies of historical figures and Hollywood celebrities although it was her life that may have been more colorful. In her older years, as other seniors “mall walked” for exercise, Diana “Jewel walked” at the grocery store near her Dyer home. Some days she’d even buy something.
Diana was born on Dec. 2, 1927, on a bitter cold morning in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago. Her mother slipped on ice the night before while delivering homemade Grappa, an Italian liqueur. This was back during the days of Prohibition so no questions were asked, nine months pregnant or not. “You did what you had to do” she would say.
Diana’s parents were Italian immigrants, described as the handsomest couple in Cuorgnè, a small village in the region of Piedmont. Her father, Giacomo Ciochetti, had “celestial blue” eyes. Her mother, Domenica, would follow him like a north star.
In the early 1920s, Giacomo set sail for America, the “promised land” where streets were paved with gold, or so they thought. It took him five years to make enough money to send for his bride and firstborn child to join him in Roseland. The family, including children Battistina, Diana and Michael (Lino), loved everything about that neighborhood: Fenger High School, Palmer Park, “The Avenue,” and Gatley’s donuts.
On Oct. 10, 1944, Diana’s father was killed in an accident at a local factory. She was just 16. Her young heart would always have a slight crack in it. Yet she would go on to live twice as long as her father before eventually joining him in another “promised land” paved with streets of gold.
As a young woman, Diana worked as a secretary for the head of the chemistry department at a Sherwin-Williams paint factory in Pullman. Her full-time position was always a point of pride, though she joked of returning home each night with the colorful aroma of chemicals. While working there, she met the man of her dreams at a Christmas party.
Frank Samargin, who joked he was too poor to afford a middle name, was a World War II veteran and a strong, handsome Greek man of few words. As Diana said, “she felt electricity with him.’ On Sept. 20, 1952, the couple married inside Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago. Their wedding reception was held at Phil Schmidt’s in Hammond because Frank loved frog legs. For their honeymoon, they drove to Florida along Route 41. For a young couple with little to their names, driving to Florida felt like rocketing to the moon. Along one stretch of deserted road, Frank challenged the driver of a speeding Corvette. Frank may have lost the race but he always won with Diana in his passenger seat. He called her “Dee.” She called most of the shots.
The couple had three children: Frank Michael, born on Jan. 11, 1958; Thomas James, born on Oct. 3, 1959, and daughter Domenica Nicolette, born on Oct. 4, 1960. The “family of six” included Diana’s mother who lived with them in Dolton. Such closeness reinforced the value of family and extended family. They routinely celebrated a life of cousins, laughter, and homemade ravioli.
In 1970, Diana enrolled at Chicago State University for a teaching degree. She taught English for 22 years at Chicago Vocational High School, sharing her love for the written word while leaving an imprint on thousands of students, many who kept in contact with her after graduating. On Sept. 27, 1980, Tom’s son, Alan, was born and later raised by Diana and Frank, bringing new joy to their later years.
Frank passed away on Dec. 10, 2007, after battling Parkinson’s disease. He was 83. Diana eventually viewed her life as a widow with her same adventurous spirit. She spent many afternoons winning – not just playing - Pinochle with other seniors that coveted her as a partner.
To her adoring grandchildren, she was “Noni” or Granny in Italian. Diana never missed a game, recital or school event. When Noni was out of vinegar, a crisis to any Italian granny, her youngest grandchild raced over with a replacement, only to find the original in the pantry. Diana promised to figure out how to text on her fancy phone, but no one could ever figure out where all those promised texts went. In her later years, she challenged the prognosis of many a doctor, insisting she was able to do just about anything, broken bones be damned.
Diana’s feisty independence served her well throughout life. Her last few years saw several hospital and rehab stays though. She was still a 30 year old in a 90 year old body.
Even in the last days of her life, Diana talked excitedly about which pair of dance shoes she’d wear for her granddaughter’s upcoming wedding. In Diana’s eyes, it was another opportunity for adventure.
Heaven finally won on Feb. 29, 2020, Leap Day, a special day that no one could forget, just as Diana would want. In between the massive stroke that Diana suffered and her ascension to heaven, her family had the cherished opportunity to say their last goodbyes inside her daughter’s home. Diana was surrounded by love, tears, laughter and memories. It was her final adventure.
Loving wife of the late Frank Samargin. Mother of Frank (Beth) Samargin, Domenica (Gary) Hartman and the late Thomas (Virginia) Samargin. “Noni” of Alan Samargin, Aline (Matt) McGivern, Kristiana (Matt) Bailey, Francesca Samargin, Domenica Samargin, Thomas (Connie) Samargin, Diana Samargin, Alec Hartman, Nicolette (Jacob) Cannon, Natalie (fiancée Zachary Walker) Hartman, Dominican Sister Maria Diana (Nina) Hartman, Nadia Hartman and Evan Hartman. “Gigi” of Malin, Mathew, Millie, Kingston, Wiley and Gavin. Daughter of the late Domenica nee Trioni and Giacomo Ciochetti. Beloved sister of Michael (Jeanette) Ciochetti amd the late Battistina (late Dominick) Cavallo. Sister in law of the late Alex (late Katherine) Samargin, Mary (late James) Meintainis, and John (Martha) Eliacostas. Martha was a cherished phone companion as well as a sister in-law of Diana. Diana left a part of her spirit with all that she touched and will be deeply missed.
Resting at Panozzo Bros. Funeral Home. 530 W 14th St (US Rt 30, 3 blks E of Western Ave), Chicago Heights Sunday, March 8th from 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Lying in state Monday March 9th at Saint Paul Catholic Church, 1855 Harrison Blvd, Valparaiso. Funeral mass 10:00 am. Burial Angelcrest Cemetery, Valparaiso.
In lieu of mourning, Diana’s family encourages guests to bring their memories of her life, or possibly another bottle of vinegar.