Diane Hewlett Steele

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Obituary

Diane Hewlett Steele transitioned from this life suddenly on Friday, June 22, 2018 at New Hanover Medical Center in Wilmington, NC. Diane was born in Bangor, Maine on August 7, 1944. She was the eldest daughter of Nell and Robert Newton and the trailblazer for her younger sisters – Robin, Karen, and Lauren.

At an early age, Diane was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church. She was a member of Calvary Episcopal Church, where she attended services intermittently throughout her years in Washington, DC. While in North Carolina, Diane attended services in various churches – Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Catholic – and maintained a deep abiding faith in God.

Diane graduated from Western High School (now Duke Ellington School for the Arts), Washington, DC in 1962. She attended Hampton Institute (Hampton University) in the fall of 1962. At Hampton, Diane was confronted with racism and discrimination when a local diner refused to serve her as she sat at the counter. This experience was an affront to Diane and counter to her life in DC where she was allowed to go everywhere and attended many events. Diane, never shy or reticent, joined the student rights movement, marching with notable civil rights leaders such as Hughey Newton. Her activism resulted in the loss of her full scholarship at Hampton and her return to home.

After returning to Washington, Diane became a “Twiggy” model and was featured in the Washington Post. She did a screen test for a movie starring Sydney Poitier; but, was not selected because she filmed “too light” and it was feared that the audience would not know that Diane was “Afro-American.”

Diane participated in politics and was selected to accompany Hubert Humphrey then candidate for President, traveling the country and campaigning with Senator Humphrey, as the only African-American of six “Humphrey girls.” Although Humphrey was unsuccessful in his bid for President, Diane continued to be active in the civil rights movement throughout the 1960s.

In 1969, Diane married William M. Hewlett, Jr. (Billy) and moved to Queens, New York. From their union Diane’s son, William M. Hewlett, III (Tony) was born in 1972. Diane quickly took to motherhood, delighting in Tony’s every movement and action. However, her marriage ended and Diane returned to Washington to raise her son as a single mother. Although no longer married to Billy, her former mother-in-law Marjorie J. Hewlett (affectionately known by Diane as “Mom”) was an integral part of her family and life and Betty (Elizabeth Hewlett) remained her sister and her friend.

In 1978, Diane began her career with Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) as an accounting technician. Still very much the activist, Diane became an active participant in the union. As a result, union officials chose her to become the union appointed specialist in Metro’s Office of Health and Welfare and, in 1985, she was transferred to Transit Employees Health and Welfare Plan.

Desiring to serve as a positive role model for Tony, in 1984, Diane returned to college and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Columbia Union College. Diane became godmother to her niece Darian Weaver at Calvary Episcopal Church in Washington, DC.

Diane had profound love of music which led her to being the first in the family to welcome her first brother-in-law, Larry, a talented musician and composer. The musical chord continued to run through her life when she met her husband Bob, her life-love, a former “street corner” crooner who grew-up with and still has ties to the Four Tops.
Diane met Bob in 1988. They quickly realized their deep love and that they were kindred spirits and the two families became blended as one. Diane and Bob raised their two sons Tony and Kyle together and Bob’s daughter Robin was the “daughter of Diane’s heart.” Diane also loved all of Bob’s other children, Lauren, Bobby, and Erik.

Throughout the years, Diane and Bob were favored aunt and uncle, taking Darian and Cole on many adventures as they were growing up. When Candice (Karen’s new daughter) joined the family in later years, she was welcomed as one of their own.

Diane was delighted at the birth of Tony’s daughter, Lillian M. Hewlett in 2006. Her “Lily Girl” was the “apple of her eye” and a source of Granna’s pride. Together with Rhyn (Robin’s daughter), the granddaughters provided Diane with much joy.

As her time with Metro was coming to a close, Diane visited North Carolina and, together with Bob, decided that it was ideal for retirement. Diane loved the sun and the beach and Topsail was perfect to begin the next chapter of their lives. Shortly thereafter, on September 30, 2006, Diane retired from the position of senior enrollment specialist at Transit Employees Health and Welfare Fund and she and Bob moved to Topsail the following spring. While they visited Washington often – for her sister Karen’s wedding to Gregory, Lauren’s wedding to James, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations and other memorable events – they set down roots in North Carolina among welcoming new friends.
Diane suffered the first of three debilitating strokes, in August 2014. While these medical challenges physically slowed her intensity for life, they did not affect her infectious spirit. For the last couple of years, she still greeted visitors with a warm, smile and her quick wit was ever present and would constantly peek through the conversation.

Diane was proceeded in death by her parents Nell and Robert Newton, and Alexander Caywood; and a sister-in-law Pamela Steele Wiley. Diane leaves to mourn her passing, her life-love and husband, Robert C. Steele, Sr.; sons, William M. Hewlett, III, Kyle C. Steele (Amber); daughter, Robin Steele; granddaughters, Lillian M. Hewlett and Rhyn Jameson; grandson, Ravin Rich; sisters and brothers-in-law, Robin Newton Jenkins (Larry), Karen Newton Cole (Gregory), and Lauren Newton Edmonds (James); nephew, Lawrence Coleman Jenkins (Cole); nieces, Darian C. Weaver and Candice O. Cole; aunts Carolyn Warren and Arlene Bennett (Cookie); one sister-in-law, Elizabeth M. Hewlett; Marjory Coleman, her special caregiver; and a host of other nieces and nephews and cousins and friends. Diane was “Mama” and “Aunt” to many others, most importantly, Desean and Taurus Outlaw, who she loved dearly and assisted in raising.

Diane’s wonderful vibrant, crazy, quick-witted spirit will live on in the many lives she touched.

A memorial service will be held in Mrs. Steele's honor on 4:00 pm Saturday, July 7, 2018, at Calvary Episcopal Church; 820 6th St NE, Washington, DC 20002