She was the angel that no one knew about. For over 20 years, Canby resident Pat Dieker quietly donated hundreds of dolls to the Canby Community Food & Toy Drive, driven by her steadfast commitment of bringing joy to children each year at Christmastime.
“She believed all little girls should have a baby doll of their own,” said Beth Dieker, one of her six children. “A quality doll was too expensive for low-income families to afford.”
And not just any doll would do.
“She didn’t like the dolls currently sold in stores because they were cheaply made and did not look like babies,” Beth said. “She would not work on Bratz dolls, Barbie dolls or the kind that were for display only.”
So Pat scoured area thrift stores for dolls that could be played with: looking for ones that were sturdy, had hair to comb or brush, and that “seemed lovable,” Beth said.
She would scrub, clean and refurbish each doll until it was spotless and as good as new — or better. Each doll came with two dresses and a nightgown that Pat made by hand.
“Each doll went into a golf shoebox from Willamette Valley Country Club because that size of box worked the best,” Beth recalled. “My kids have wonderful memories of going to her sewing room to see what she was working on. She would show them all of the dolls and outfits.”
She averaged about 40 dolls annually, and as many as 60 some years.
Sadly, Pat Dieker passed away on Sept. 18 at the age of 88. Beth’s employer, Waste Management Inc., made a charitable donation in honor of Pat Dieker, to help ensure her work will continue this year, at a time when a little love and joy may be more needed than ever.
“Many of our members remember placing the dolls in the gift bags over the years and know that they brought joy to hundreds of children over the years,” the Canby Kiwanis Club said in a recent newsletter commemorating Dieker and thanking her family and Waste Management for the contribution. “What a gift!”
One of the most amazing things about her mother, Beth said, was that she had lived more than 50 years after suffering a major stroke that caused her to lose the front left lobe of her brain.
But if you ever met her, you’d have no idea.
“The fact that she survived and went on to live a full, happy life still baffles neurologists,” Beth said. “Each day she would get up, go to the kitchen window and say a prayer to thank God for allowing her to live so that her children didn’t have to grow up without a mother.”
The work her mother did with the dolls was her way of giving back for all she had been given, she explained.
“It was her joy to make the dolls for Kiwanis and she did it quietly,” Beth said.
Pat is survived by her husband, Len Dieker, six children, 19 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
The Canby Community Food & Toy Drive will go on this year, with some modifications due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic. For more information, visit canbykiwanis.org.
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