By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The City of Oshawa lost one of its most dedicated and long-serving politicians after Councillor Nancy Diamond died suddenly on Feb. 12.
After leaving city hall complaining of a headache, Diamond later called fellow Councillor Dan Carter to take her to Lakeridge Health Oshawa when the pain had worsened. Later Friday evening, after her condition worsened, Diamond was transferred to Toronto Western Hospital where she later passed away.
Born in 1941, Diamond entered politics first when she was elected as a city councillor in 1988. It was the beginning of a career in municipal politics that would span nearly three decades, and see her serve as mayor for 12 years between 1991 and 2003. After taking a break from politics, she returned in 2010 when she was elected as a city and regional councillor.
The news of her passing was “shocking,” said Mayor John Henry, and as it spread through the community Monday morning, many offered their sympathies to Diamond’s family, particularly her daughter and two grandchildren.
“I’ve known Nancy for an incredibly long time and she will be sadly missed,” Henry said. “As the day goes on and into the week, her time in Oshawa has been one of service, her involvement in the community before politics needs to be remembered, and remembering some of her great accomplishments.”
When Diamond was re-elected in the 2014 election, she was joined by newcomer Councillor Carter, who says Diamond immediately began to show him the ropes of the job she had loved for years. The pair had met previously, when Diamond was mayor and Carter was working in the media where they formed a mutual respect. He says that following his election to council, she quickly became a mentor and teacher, passing on her dedication and standards for what she saw as the role of a councillor to their constituents.
Diamond, who served as deputy mayor and chair of the finance committee, was well known at city hall for her money sense and financial stewardship with taxpayers money. She was also a large part of bringing a university to Oshawa.
“She really helped me understand politics and about service and about being committed and being prepared. So I really am blessed that I’ve had that chance to be able to learn what she expected out of me. I keep on saying this, I mean she served at such a high level, but she expected all of us to serve at such a high level,” he says.
“I really admired her of that and I think that when you are able to have somebody like that as not only your friend, but as a mentor and a teacher, and they have those principles, I think it prepares you to be able to serve at the very highest level, so I was lucky.”
Councillor Bob Chapman said the same.
“One of the biggest things in her mind was service to community,” Chapman says. “She taught me a lot of valuable lessons about being on council.”
Similar to Carter, Chapman says he met Diamond prior to his being elected when he worked as an inspector with the Durham Regional Police and she was mayor. He recalls fondly one particular instance, when Diamond learned of a fire that had happened in the city a few days prior, but she never heard about it.
“She gave me her cell phone number and next time I had a big incident, I phoned her at 3 o’clock in the morning and she answered and came out. That’s how dedicated she was.”
Chapman also worked closely with Diamond delivering meals through the Meals on Wheels program organized by Community Care Durham.
Along with that, Diamond was also a long-time community volunteer, earning the YWCA Woman of Distinction award for her work. She was also named an honourary director of Friends of Second Marsh, honourary member of the Durham Region Children’s Aid Society and honourary president of the IODE Golden Jubilee. Diamond was also a member of the Optimist Club and the Oshawa Senior Citizens Centres’ (OSCC) board.
“What I see that we’ve lost is a person who has been dedicated to the wellness and looking after seniors in our community for a number of years,” says Sandra Black, OSCC’s executive director. “There’s never an event that we do at the senior’s centre that Nancy isn’t in attendance.”
Prior to becoming mayor, Diamond served as the president of OSCC for a number of years, but continued to support the organization even after her mayoral duties pulled her away. To this day, Diamond remained a “mainstay” at the OSCC.
“She really did care about everyone in the community,” Black says. “It is, in my mind, both from a personal perspective and from an organizational perspective, it is a huge loss.”
The condolences flooded in from across the region as her colleagues at the regional table learned of the news.
“Councillor Diamond was a formidable force in politics,” wrote Regional Chair Roger Anderson in a news release. “She was a strong female leader at a time when it was less common to see women in senior public service roles. She also led many local community endeavours and will be truly missed.”
Oshawa MP Colin Carrie, shared his sympathies for Diamond’s passing while speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
“Every city has citizens who are so dedicated to their community that their very name becomes synonymous with that community. In Oshawa, Nancy Diamond was one of those people,” Carrie said. “The loss of Nancy at city hall will be felt throughout our community. Nancy did it all; she was a wife, a parent, a grandparent and a mentor to many in our community…She will be fondly remembered as one of the most compassionate, dedicated and inclusive leaders in Oshawa’s history.”
Condolence books will be available at Service Oshawa inside Oshawa city hall, at the OSCC’s John Street Branch and at regional headquarters.
Flags at city hall and Durham Region headquarters have been lowered and will remain at half-mast for the time being.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.