On July 18, we lost two Wildcats who made a difference when former cheerleader Diana Dean (’83) and former coach and teacher Jim Riley, 81 died.

Diana had been comatose for more than 10 years after an automobile accident that injured her sister, Laura, and killed their friend, Shannon Butler. Diana was an honors student who was also a member of the drill team and one of the most vibrant, popular young women to have graced our school.

Her injury spurred many of her friends and neighbors to establish the Diana Dean Head Injury Guild, which has raised more than $800,000 for research and education.

Jeannie Kadane (’76) had donated her services as a public relations professional, and I know former Woodrow parents such as Ann Diener and Norma Johnson have donated countless hours to the guild.

Diana’s sister, Laura (’85) has become an executive assistant with the National Head Injury Foundation in Washington. Her father, attorney Tom Dean, died in 1987. He was a founder and prime force behind The Friends of Woodrow. Her mother, Jane McConnell, was an officer of the PTA and kept a tireless vigil over her daughter.

Diana’s funeral filled St. John’s Episcopal Church with classmates, teachers and friends, who will always carry the inspiration which Diana and her family have given to our community.

The Essence of Coach Riley

Jim Riley came to Woodrow in 1939 after graduating from Sunset and SMU and coaching at Garland High School. He was my algebra teacher in 1974 and retired in 1977 after nearly 40 years at Woodrow.

Although several other teachers equaled his tenure, I believe he was our only link left to the faculty of the 1930s and certainly one of the most memorable among a host of powerful personalities.

This story was related by Coach Riley’s son, William Donald Riley:

“My father could never go Downtown without every third person stopping to say hello. Once, when Bob Hope came to town, my father was riding the motorcades with Mr. Hope. Parade-goers all along the route would yell out: ‘Hi, Mr. Riley!’

“Near the end of the parade, the famous Hope deadpan was directed to Coach Riley: “I guess they know you, too,’ he said.”

Coach Riley coached football until the 1960s, except for his service in the Navy during World War II. His 1953 team reached the state semifinals before tying Odessa. Odessa advanced not on first downs, but penetrations.

Revered retired teachers such as J. William Brown, Wilhelmina Blevins, Bob Cargile and Ken Kimbrell paid their respects.

Just last year, members of the alumni association took Coach Riley to lunch and tried to convince him to let them give a dinner in his honor.

“Why would you want to honor me,” he asked, “when there are so many others who have contributed so much to Woodrow?”

That was the essence of Coach Riley.

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