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Hellie remembered as quiet pillar in community

Diane Hellie
Diane Hellie gives directions on how to prepare precinct caucus packages to others in 2016 at the Olmsted County DFL office in Rochester. Hellie, the chairwoman of the Olmsted 25 organizing unit, died Wednesday.

When Olmsted County DFLers in Senate District 25 meet today, an often quiet voice will be missing.

Diane Hellie, chairwoman of Olmsted 25, died Wednesday, days before the organizing unit’s convention to elect officials and appoint delegates to help nominate the party’s choices for 1st Congressional District representative and governor.

"It’s a hard week, but we go on with our business," said former Olmsted County DFL Chairwoman Lynn Wilson, who worked with Hellie to grow the local party.

Steve Monk, the Olmsted 25 vice chairman, said Hellie was already stepping back from her past role of organizing the convention due to health concerns, but her death was still a shock — and her insights will be missed.

"She was always still there for questions and to guide us," he said, noting she had a knack for quietly ensuring everything was organized and everyone involved was treated fairly.


"It was just her nature," he said, noting volunteers have been pulling together to ensure things fall into place when party members meet at Mayo High School for the convention, which starts at 11 a.m. with registration.

Wilson said the days before the event have been difficult for many local DFLers, but she sees the convention as an honor to Hellie’s years of service.

"I expect everything will continue to go on as Diane would want it," she said.

Hellie became active in the local DFL party in 2004, Wilson said, noting the party’s platform fit many of her beliefs, which also led to a variety of other community activities.

She was an active board member with Rochester’s League of Women Voters and Christmas Anonymous and past president of United Methodist Women and AAUW of Rochester, where she worked to inspire girls to seek careers in science as part of the organization’s goal to advance equity for women and girls. She also served as the social action chairwoman of the United Methodist Women at Christ United Methodist Church.

"Diane was a powerful ‘behind the scenes’ force. She participated in so many ways here," said the Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay, who noted she regularly served Saturday noon meals at the church and worked with the church’s rummage sale, as well as other outreach events.

"She was a giver; she was a doer," Wilson said.

That sentiment was echoed by others.


Jane Callahan, president of Rochester’s League of Women Voters, said Hellie was on hand during Tuesday’s Voters Voices forum featuring Rochester City Council members, despite feeling ill.

"She was a real pillar of the organizations she was involved in," Callahan said.

Alan Hoffman said that was definitely the case for the Rochester International Film Group, where Hellie was secretary and helped organize the annual film festival, which will start its nine-day run on April 20.

He noted her experience as an IBM software engineer and documentation specialist gave her skills and an analytical nature that benefitted many organizations.

"She was a wonderful community resource," he said, noting the film group is working to determine how it will fill Hellie’s shoes as the annual festival nears.

"We’ll do fine, but it’s somebody who will be missed," Hoffman said.

While Hellie was known to be a quiet supporter of many groups and efforts, Callahan said she had a presence that was important to many and often revealed insights others had missed.

"She was that quiet person in the room," she recalled. "She would wait and then she would say something, and we all realized we were missing it."


With a memorial service planned at 2 p.m. Sunday at Christ United Methodist Church, 400 Fifth Ave. SW, it’s likely many similar insights will be shared. Those who served on boards and committees with Hellie said her drive often motivated others.

"We’re better because of who she was," Wilson said of the DFL party in Rochester, but it was a sentiment that seemed to be shared by those who knew her throughout the community.

Diane Hellie

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