July 30, 2007

Diem family keeps father and husband's memory alive with award

By Karrah Anderson
Staff Writer

Third Street in Delano has held great importance in Sylvia Diem’s life.

It’s the street she grew up on, it’s the street her high school sweetheart Bill grew up on, and it’s the street where, eventually, Sylvia and Bill Diem raised their four children.

This road led Sylvia and Bill to know one another, and has provided a happy home for their children. It’s also a prominent street along the route of the Fourth of July parade, which is a very important time of year for the Diem family.

Bill Diem served on the Fourth of July committee for 35 years, 30 of which he was chairman.

“They just kept reappointing him every year,” Sylvia explained.

Bill served on the committee through 2003, when he was too ill to be involved anymore. Bill passed away in 2003, and Sylvia knew there should be a physical commemoration of his life in order to carry on his involvement in the Fourth of July.

“I knew I wanted to do something, and I knew what I wanted it to be called, but I didn’t know what ‘it’ was,” Sylvia said.

Sylvia got together with Steve Gilmer, who is also a longtime member of the Fourth of July committee, and he suggested creating an award to be given to a float during the Fourth of July parade.

“Our town didn’t have an award, and so we created one in honor of Bill,” Sylvia said.

The Bill Diem Memorial Chairman’s Award has been given out for the past four years. The first was awarded to the Delano American Legion for its patriotic display, followed by the Delano Royalty Organization the next year.

“We tried to pick the most patriotic float, but realized that doesn’t always pan out,” Brian Diem explained.

Sylvia’s children, Brian, Tim, Kris, and Natalie, are in charge of choosing the float deserving of the award. Each of the children try their best to get home in time for the Fourth of July celebration, to take part in the legacy they’ve created with the award.

“It lets us kids get together again, at least once a year,” Brian explained.

The last two years, Bill Diem’s children presented the award to the most impressive floats.

“We choose one that looks like a lot of work went into it. We look for an organization that put time and effort into their float, one that shows creativeness,” Brian said. “We try not to let the same float win two years in a row.”

Maple Grove and Princeton have won the last two years because of their creative depiction of their home cities. However, this year, Princeton’s award meant more than the Diems could have ever imagined.

“This was the first year they (the Diem children) all didn’t agree on who should get the award,” Sylvia explained. “But Brian stuck to his guns because, for some reason, he knew Princeton should have it.”

It turned out Brian was right. The Princeton royalty lost one of their candidates the night before the parade in a car accident, and their coordinator told them that the award made the parade a much easier day.

“Something kept steering me to Princeton,” Brian recalled. “Their parents got teary-eyed when we gave it to them, it was like it was meant to be. Good news at a bad time, I guess.”

The Bill Diem Memorial Chairman Award has allowed the Diems to truly carry on the legacy of their father. The first year of the award was an emotional time for the family and the community.

“The first year, we got a lot of good comments because he was so well known and involved in the Fourth of July,” Sylvia said.

The Fourth of July was such a part of the Diem family, and now they are able to continue that involvement forward.

“Dad just loved the Fourth of July. This is a nice way to keep his memory going,” Brian said. “It’s really great that the committee still lets him be a part of it.”

This award filled a void on the Fourth of July with something positive, and the Diems plan to continue giving the award each year.

“This is my way of now contributing to the Fourth, since Bill was so involved in the committee,” Sylvia Diem said. “I think next year I’m gonna go with the kids, just to see what actually goes on when the floats are setting up.”

The Diem family has allowed their father’s memory to live on at a time of year that was most important to him, while at the same time, touching the lives of others who may never have known him.

“It just means a lot to keep Dad a part of the Fourth,” Brian concluded.

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