Dianne French

Thursday, July 27, 2023 9:38 pm

Dianne French, age 81, of Calmar, passed away on Wednesday, July 26, 2023, at her home.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m., Monday, July 31, at St. Aloysius Catholic Church, 304 South Maryville Street, Calmar, with Rev. Henry Huber presiding. Burial will be in the church cemetery. Visitation will be from 2 to 5 p.m., on Sunday, July 30, at the Helms Funeral Home, French Chapel, 202 South Washington St., in Calmar.

On Nov. 30, 1941, Dianne Caroline was born to Lawrence Anthony & Johanna J. “Bernice” (Huinker) Buchheit on the family farm near Festina, Iowa. She married Philip J. French on Sept. 10, 1966, at Our Lady of Seven Dolors Catholic Church, Festina.

Dianne graduated from DeSales High School in Ossian and La James Cosmetology School in Mason City. She owned and ran Dianne’s Beauty Salon in Calmar before having her five kids and joining Phil in the family business as cosmetologist and bookkeeper. Phil and Dianne bought the family funeral homes in 1970. Together they operated Chekal Funeral Home, Fort Atkinson and French Funeral Home, Calmar. They also opened French & Balik Funeral Home in Decorah and operated it until their retirement in 2001. In retirement they enjoyed helping other funeral homes by making long distance trips together.

When not working Dianne could be found in her flower gardens or relaxing outside in the fresh air. She was known for her gardens—her roses in particular—at French Funeral Home. Phil made the mistake of taking her fishing once, and she was hooked. They relished rare breaks from work during trips to Cass Lake Minnesota and Canada with both family and friends, usually spending their wedding anniversary on the lakes. Retirement provided her the free time to spend with her children and grandchildren, and she especially enjoyed trips with them to Namibia in southern Africa in 2015, Norway in 2019 and Cass Lake in 2021. Her satisfaction came from knitting Christmas stockings for her grandchildren, doing puzzles and crosswords and going to the Casino to find her favorite slot machine, on which she always won! Dianne’s children and grandchildren always came home demanding cinnamon rolls, sugar pancakes, vegetable dumpling soup, popcorn balls and baked chicken. She was saddened not to meet her first great-grandbaby Phillips arriving this November.

Those left to cherish her memory include her husband Phil, children & spouses: Patty & Lloyd Phillips of New Hampton, Iowa; Annette & Doyle Speer of Aledo, Illinois; Cheryl & Scott Hotvedt of Calmar, Iowa; Stephanie French of Windhoek, Namibia; and Philip C. & Dawn French of Calmar, Iowa; Grandchildren: Allie Hotvedt, Mitchell & Kelsey Phillips, Walker Hotvedt, Jenna & Zane Sackville, Mia French, Tori Speer, Philip E. French, and Felix & Simon Mendelsohn; a sister, Anna Mae Bergan Davis of Ridgeway, Iowa and brother and sister-in-law: Kevin & Nancy Buchheit of Festina, Iowa. Dianne was preceded in death by her parents; a brother, Ronald Buchheit and a grandchild, Cecilia Caroline Mendelsohn.

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