A Diamond in the rough, literally Beloved Mt. Airy teacher, author, activist dies at 80

Local Life October 24, 2012 0 Comments

by Len Lear
I have never known anyone whose name so perfect fit his personality and character as Stanley C. Diamond, a long-time resident of Allens Lane in West Mt. Airy with his wife, Beverly, with whom Stan had “a love affair for 52 years.” Stan died early Saturday morning, Oct 13, at the age of 80. (We were unable to obtain the cause of death.)

While shooting this photo, perhaps Diamond got a little too close to this pride of lions in a tree in South Africa.

Stan may not have been a celebrity, and his name may not be familiar to many people outside of Northwest Philadelphia, but to his hundreds of friends, neighbors, former students and admirers, Stan was a very, very special human being — a brilliant educator, devoted teacher, civil rights and social activist, author, prize-winning photographer, world traveler (more than 75 countries) and gentle, nurturing father and grandfather.

“As a family member said at the funeral service, every moment was a teachable moment,” said a good friend of the family who formerly lived in Mt. Airy. “He was so special in so many ways. I was talking to him recently, and Stan said that the trip they had just returned from would be his last. Not because he still could not travel but because he felt bad for the people who had to pick up his wheelchair. That is exactly the kind of person that Stan was — always thinking about the welfare of other people. The Diamond/Finkel family is very special and loving!”

At the funeral service for Stan at Goldstein’s Rosenberg’s Raphael Sacks, 6410 N. Broad St., on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 16, one glowing tribute after another orally and in a tribute book expressed the indelible impact Diamond had on virtually everyone with whom he came into contact.

The late, beloved Mt. Airy traveler/author/educator is seen with a villager during a celebration in Ghana, West Africa.

For example, according to a former student of Diamond’s, Dennis Fox, “At Akiba Academy in 1961 for my 7th and 8th grade, Mr. Diamond was my core teacher. Between being thrown out of other classes and suspended from school, it was hard to feel acceptance by not only other teachers there but also my rightfully worried parents, who often didn’t know what to do with me.

“Yet, day after day, at the close of school, a number of us commuting students would stand in line in the parking lot, waiting for Mr. Diamond to walk to his VW beetle and face us fighting for a seat in his car, especially the coveted ‘front seat.’ Just to be close to Mr. Diamond as he lit up his pipe and shared his philosophy about current events but more importantly, his calm questions of each of us in the car about what was going on in our lives, was the highlight for us all!

“What does it mean to have at least one person who accepted you unconditionally, especially at such a tumultuous time in one’s life? Everything. My mission has been to help others in the business world as a speaker at conferences as well as an executive coach. I cried today when I learned of Mr. Diamond’s passing. No other teacher had such an influence on me then, as well as on me to this day. Thank you, Mr Diamond.”

“Stan had a long and very full life with many rich relationships and experiences,” wrote Michael Eisman of North Wales. “I feel honored to have known Stan and to have been a small part of his life. I will remember our dinners and long conversations fondly.”

According to Linda and Abby Petkov, of Hilton Head, South Carolina, “How many children had the good fortune of having Stan listen to their troubles so far away from home at Camp Saginaw? He always was a great listener with the unique ability of having youngsters solve their own problems by investigating alternative methods that would ease the situation. We never knew a man so loved by all who knew him.”

Diamond was a lifelong educator, including 16 years as teacher and director at Akiba Lower School in Merion Station, where he was fondly referred to as “Mr. D.” (As of 2007, Akiba is now called Barrack Hebrew Academy and is located in Bryn Mawr.) Stan was also founder and director of the Mill Creek School at the Institute of PA Hospital, and he enjoyed 32 years at summer camps in various roles.

Stan was extremely active in the civil rights movement. He founded the local chapter of Congress of Racial Equality, and he participated in sit-ins and other acts of protest including marches in Washington. He was involved in Freedom Rides and was active in countless other progressive activities.

He was one of the first recipients of the Sylvia Cohen Award for intergroup work in the community. Together with John White, Stan co-founded the Mt. Airy Coalition for Youth. In 1983, he organized the first Northwest Interfaith Movement (NIM) celebration of the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which has remained an annual celebration in the community. Most recently, he was the recipient of the Rev. Richard R. Fernandez Religious Leadership Award to honor his extensive volunteer work in the interfaith and civil rights communities.

I met Stan and Bev about 10 years ago when I wrote an article about this peripatetic pair. It is hard to believe but true that a couple who were so active in so many worthwhile causes also found the time (and the courage) to travel to more than 75 countries, including many Third World countries with lots of danger and disease but no amenities.

Many of these travels are brilliantly recounted in Stan’s book, “What’s an American Doing Here? Reflections on Travel in the Third World,” $16.95, published by Eloquent Books in Durham, Connecticut.  (www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/WhatsAnAmericanDoingHere.html)

Here are a just a few situations the Diamonds found themselves in during their travels, as detailed in the book:

•Traversing the Mahakam River in Central Borneo in Indonesia, they had to transfer from one small houseboat to another after their engine was struck by a floating log. On their first night, it rained unmercifully, and after closing the canvas around them to keep the rain out, Diamond wrote, “It must have been 95 degrees … and we were attacked by a thousand little flying things.”

•On the way back from visiting a Mayan site, their van, carrying about eight tourists, was stopped by bandits wielding AK-47’s. After having a gun pointed at his head, Diamond gave the bandit some loose change. They also took Beverly’s camera.

•In attending a Buddhist festival in Kataragama, Sir Lanka, the Diamonds left their shoes at the door of a holy place, having been assured by their guide that they would be safe. Upon leaving, their shoes were missing. Having lost his only pair of walking shoes, Stan’s sandals had to suffice for the next several days. Diamond affirms the magnificence of the festival and asks the reader to let him know if they see a farmer in Sri Lanka walking around in Rockports.

•Traveling down the Li River in China, where the scenery was quite beautiful, but the water was not an “inviting” place to swim, Beverly wondered after having lunch where the dishes were washed. Stanley had no idea. Just a few minutes later, the riddle was solved. An identical river boat passed them going the opposite way. On the very end of the ship, waiters were washing the dishes in the water of the Li River!

Stan is survived by his soul mate, Beverly (Abel), children Dr. Gary Diamond (Rivi) and Jodi Finkel (Dr. Len), and grandchildren Ross, Gabby and Harrison Finkel, who live locally, and Orian and Yahel Diamond, who live in Israel. (The grandchildren used to refer to Stan as their “adored Bebop,” a family term of deep affection.)

Family members said that Stan’s goal in life was to leave this world and those people he touched better off for his having existed. In that goal, he was an unqualified success. (Readers are urged to make a donation in Stan’s loving memory to Doctors Without Borders or to a charity of their choice.)

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