New York Times  Bestselling Author

Diane McCrone (aka Little Zan)

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time. Some of you might find it macabre and weird. Others will totally understand. Either reaction is just fine.

I’m one of those people who hates to lose touch with old friends. I Google people I cared about from my past. I ‘friend’ people I went to kindergarten with on Facebook. I don’t live in the past, but I do hold on tight to treasured memories.

There is a significant person from my past who cannot be found via Google or on Facebook, because she died when she was 29, before most of us had even heard of the Internet. She was, for many years, my best friend, and I’m writing this post because I want her to be “findable”.

I met Diane in our 7th grade French class, and already she was more intriguing than anyone I knew. Our French teacher’s pronunciation of “Diane” sounded something like “Zan” to us, and we began calling each other by that name. Since I was taller, I was Big Zan and she became Little Zan.

Zan didn’t have an easy life. Her parents were divorced and she lived with her grandmother and aunt in a neighborhood that was not the best. She was extremely smart, loyal and very loving. She was also a little wild and irresponsible, skipping school, sneaking the occasional beer, and smoking more than the occasional cigarette. My parents, while they fell in love with her as most people did, were afraid some of her worst traits would rub off on me. I was praying they would, because while I tried hard to be cool, she was cool without trying.

I lost her a long time ago, but I doubt there is a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. During the past few days, I’ve thought of her a good deal, and here’s why: my office is a wreck as I near deadline. It’s piled with papers and research books everywhere. It’s hot and there’s a hint of panic in the air. It reminds me so much of the last week of our senior year of high school. Zan and I had plans to spend the summer together at the Jersey Shore, working as waitresses on the boardwalk, renting a hovel, and living for two whole months without parental supervision. (I still can’t believe my parents agreed to this!). At the eleventh hour, though, we learned that Zan wasn’t going to graduate because she hadn’t bothered to write five or six essay papers and needed to attend summer school. Our plans for a summer of freedom were doomed. So, we came up with a different plan: Zan moved into my house for that last week of school (thanks to my amazing parents, again), and together we wrote her papers (and the one I had left to write). My room was piled high with papers, research books and the air had more than a hint of panic. We took turns at the old Smith Corona (dating myself here!), typing until our fingertips were raw, and we pulled it off. She graduated, and we spent the summer doing truly decadent things down the shore and becoming even closer friends.

We spent our first two years of college together at Glassboro State in New Jersey, each of us dropping out after our sophomore year and moving to different parts of the country. We stayed in touch, though not as often as I wish we had. A few days before she died, we had a four hour phone conversation and I have always been glad for that extra time with her. She was about to finish her degree in Geography from the University of South Florida, and she sounded happier than I’d ever heard her. A few days later, she was murdered by an intruder. It’s still unbearable to think about.

I love this picture of her, taken by our Glassboro State suitemate, Jody Pfeiffer. It’s a sad picture, but it captures what I loved best about Zan: her sensitivity, her pensive nature and her beautiful eyes.

So now Diane Mary McCrone is “findable” on the Internet. That may not mean anything to anyone else, but it means something to me. Thank you for letting me share her with you.  

 

42 Comments

  1. Margo on July 20, 2009 at 9:14 am

    I was very touched by this story Diane, but how tragic and devastating. It must have been a horrible shock when you found out about her death and the circumstances surrounding it…what a true friend you were to her, and your parents sound exactly like mine…people who would take her in to help. Oddly, I saw my best girlfriend from 6th grade just last Fri and we had not seen each other for over 40 years…Gary & and I were with friends at the evening baseball game and I saw someone 1 row down from us who’s eyes were unmistakable…I went over to her and touched her shoulder and said ‘Shelley’…she looked up at me and said ‘Margo’…it was unbelievable we would know each other’s faces after 40 years but I quess you never forget your true friends…we have so much to catch up on and will meet for lunch soon but our memories are very intact as we talked about our overnight slumber parties, dancing classes together and many other shared times.
    I wish you still had your ‘Zan’ to share treasured times too.

  2. ronnie on July 20, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Diane what a beautiful tribute to your friend.
    You had Lil Zan and I had Big Maryann. The stories sound very similar, including her moving into my house after high school (she was a year ahead of me and wanted to attend college) since her mother and step father moved to New Hampshire. She also did not have an easy life. Her father was killed in a car accident wen she was very young, she had older brothers and there was a lot of abuse of all kinds. Her mother remarried and her husband was an alcoholic. Fortunately, last I heard Big Maryann was alive. I haven’t spoken to her in about 15 years after my husband and I went to New Hampshire to visit and found her still trying to numb her pain with drugs. I had also brought my brother in-law with us hoping to play match maker, needless to say it was a disaster. She never returned my calls after that, then her phone was disconnected. I still try every few months to search for her.
    Thank you for letting your readers meet Lil Zan and to help us remember all the Zan’s in our lives.

  3. Lindsay on July 20, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I think this is a nice little tribute for your friend to make her “findable” on the internet.

  4. brenda on July 20, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    One of my best best best friends is also not available on Internet. I spoke at her funeral not too long ago…not a good situation either…we have lost so many, but she and I were the best of the best. What a lovely tribute to your friend.

  5. Diane Chamberlain on July 20, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    When I feel like complaining about a new wrinkle in my face or a hot flash, I think about Zan and other friends who will never be able to experience those signs of getting older. Puts everything in perspective, for sure.

    • K'tee Bee on September 10, 2015 at 12:06 am

      The sign of a life well-lived is when you carry the stories of your friends imprinted on your soul. Sometimes a particular laugh or a twinkle in someone’s eye will bring to mind my own Little Zan friend. In that way, we keep them with us.

  6. Glen on July 20, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    I read this first thing this morning and was so touched by it that I had to think about it all day. I spent some time this afternoon “Googling” some old friends. None came up. I was saddened by that fact.
    For those of you that have read my comments over the past couple of months about my mother, she passed away June 16th. She was 87. But her smile and love will be with me forever. I feel so grateful that unlike many others, I knew her and had her love for 53 years.
    If I may Diane, a friend of mine has a blog that is remembering the soldiers, sailors and airmen that have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country in the 2 most recent wars. She and her friends want to make sure that these young men and women are never forgotten. Her web address is http://www.FreedomRemembered.com.
    Thank you for reminding me of friends past and the many friends I have made on this journey. You and John and the friends of your blog are in my ever present mind. With Love…

  7. Gina on July 20, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Oh Diane, this is such a beautiful tribute. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on July 20, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Thanks for your sweet sentiments, Glen. Getting to know you has been such a wonderful and unexpected bonus of selecting Topsail Island as the setting for my recent books. Thanks also for sharing your friend’s excellent site. It’s so easy to forget about the troops, and her site puts a very human face on those individuals who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.

  9. Ron Staley on July 20, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Thank you for telling your story. It is very meaningful to those of us who share a bit of our lives through Facebook. Many people dismiss Facebook as a fad and have no parts of it but I have found it a wonderful way to gather friends, present and past together. It allows us, on a daily basis, to touch ever so lightly on the lives of those we care about. I have made contact with people I have not talked to for over 40 years and made aquaintances with some who I knew but never interacted with when we were in school. Now in a later context we seem to share an interest in communicating. Thank you for letting us be a part of your daily life through this media.

  10. Caren Crane on July 20, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Oh, Diane, your description and Little Zan’s picture both broke my heart. I am inspired to search once more for my long lost friend from kindergarten through high school. Maybe I’ll find her this time.

  11. Denise on July 20, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Diane, your remembrance of Diane brought immediate tears to my eyes. It reminds me of several of my old friends who will never get those wrinkles. I often wish their surviving families could know that at least one person (me) from the long ago past still thinks of their lost loved one and will never forget their contributions to my life.
    Glen, I’m so sorry about the loss of your mother.

  12. Denise on July 20, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    I neglected to comment on Diane’s photo. She was gorgeous. Her sad pensive look is reflective of how I felt upon reading your remembrances of her: sad that she is gone.

  13. Margo on July 21, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Glen, I read Diane’s blog everyday so I know the story of your mother from past comments…I am so very sorry for your loss.
    Diane, your Zan has the face of someone familiar and when I first saw it I thought I knew her…of course I don’t know her but maybe it’s her expression that reminded me of someone…whatever it is, the story and the photo made me cry.

  14. Barbara Samuel O'Neal on July 21, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    What a rich and evocative post! Thank you. People shape us, that’s sure.

  15. Martha O'Quinn on July 22, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Diane, thanks for sharing your loss and what a beautiful tribute to your friend. The picture is lovely, portrait of a natural beauty. There’s something in her eyes that makes me believe she thought about love and friendship a lot, especially your role in her life. I’ve been away a lot this summer and while reading past entries on your blog I came across “Summer’s Child” and the new cover. It’s lovely and I was fortunate enough to win a copy of the book several years ago in one of the first contests after signing onto your mailing list. It’s a treasure. I volunteer at one of the branches of our public library system. A patron approached the desk this past Monday and said, “I’ve become a fan of Jody Picoult’s books.” Can you reccomend another author that I might enjoy as much?” My immediate response was, “By all means, Diane Chamberlain. She’s our southern Jodi.” Of course I was quoting from the cover of “Secrets.” Just keep on doing what you do so well.

  16. Gail on July 29, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    This was also one of my favorite pictures of Little Zan. Jodie managed to capture so much in that shot. Thanks for sharing your background story, I learned a lot that I didn’t know about the two of you. You both share a special place in the memories I have filed away from our “suite” at Glassboro. You’ve managed to make me happy and sad at the same time! I’m so glad I am able to call you both my friends.

  17. Diane Chamberlain on July 29, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Gail, it’s so good to hear from you! We were sooooo young, weren’t we?

  18. Richard on July 30, 2009 at 12:40 am

    I just wanted to thank you sharing this story. You see, I am majoring in Geography at USF and I just found out that I am receiving the Diane M McCrone Memorial Geography Scholarship next semester. Reading this story moved me to tears. However, knowing the story behind the name on the scholarship has given me an incredible sense of honor and responsibility. This is a very powerful and emotional moment in my life that will not be forgotten. Again, thank you for making Diane McCrone findable on the internet.

  19. Diane Chamberlain on July 30, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Richard, thank you so much for your comment! It gave me chills. Things do seem to come full circle sometimes. I love that Zan lives on in this way through the scholarship, through others who’ve been awarded it in the past, and through you. She’s smiling down at us right now.

  20. JodyP on July 30, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Richard, your letter leaves me speechless and with tears in my eyes. I had no idea there was a Diane Mc Crone Scholarship. I think that is such a perfect way to honor her memory.
    Big Zan, you wrote a wonderful tribute to a dear friend.

  21. Harry Watson on August 23, 2009 at 4:49 am

    Hello Diane,
    It is very nice of you to write of Diane McCrone. I liked her very much. That never goes away. I met her in the 6th grade, about 1961. Jefferson School. She sat behind me. I use to sit sideways in my chair so we could talk. We talked alot. Seeing her picture takes me back. Though I too never forget.
    I will walk alone in the rain so no one will see or hear …….
    Your Friend
    Harry

  22. Diane Chamberlain on August 23, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Harry, thanks for you comment. I know how much affection Diane felt for you (as I did too, of course). I can picture the two of you in the 6th grade chatting up a storm and getting in trouble. 🙂

  23. David Drelich on October 25, 2009 at 12:36 am

    Diane,

    What a sweet thing to do for her. I didn’t know Diane well in high school, but as it happened, I did spend some time with her at our 10th reunion (in fact, that’s how I got reacquainted with you, through hanging out with her). It was such a shock, just before the next reunion, to hear of her loss.

    She was a very good person, and she deserves this memorial.

    David

  24. Lois Manowitz on December 21, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Diane, Thanks for directing me to these comments. they are all very moving, as is your tribute to Diane. I join Harry and David as former classmates of Diane (and you), for me going back to Hubbard Junior High. As I told you, the thing I remember most about Diane was her laugh. She had this infectious, kind of “goofy” laugh, that would crack me up whenever I heard it. We always were in homeroom class together, and any other class that alphabetized. I, too, saw her again at our 10th reunion, and as soon as she laughed, many memories came rushing back to me, and again, I was laughing along with her, at nothing. This is a beautiful tribute to her. Lois

  25. Karen on September 9, 2010 at 12:57 am

    What a touching tribute. It reminds us to cherish what we have.

  26. Darlene Robbins Hamilton on September 9, 2010 at 7:32 am

    What a beautiful girl and you had a wonderful relationship. It is not macabre at all.

  27. Nana Faulkner on February 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I knew Diane during her time at University of South Florida. She and I, along with several other students, would spend time in the Geography Dept, studying for our exams.

    Although I didn’t know her well, the Dept was not the same without her. I think of her often and wish her family and friends well.

  28. Diane Chamberlain on February 18, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Nana.

  29. Alice Lake (Nee Broniszewski) on September 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Diane,

    I was touched by your story of dear Diane and I share deeply in your grief because Diane was my best friend too.

    During my short time at Plainfield High, Diane became my companion and confident. I arrived on the scene in Sophomore year and had to leave just before homecoming in senior year. Since I had very little supervision during the time I lived in Plainfield, I was able to participate in some of those wild antics.

    Poor Mr. Bishop. He had both of us in the same Biology class. Due to the enormous amount of fun we enjoyed during the school year, we had the distinction of becoming the first students in his career that he had ever had to send to summer school. We had a blast and didn’t feel deprived of a vacation at all. Of course we started out the season by getting the same haircut.

    I’m glad you made the point that it was Diane’s attraction to all things fun and interesting that nearly caused her not to graduate. She was actually a brilliant, creative and sensitive being.

    We wrote poetry, painted on her bedroom wall, played guitar and made up stories about the neighbors. We camped in my backyard and introduced each other to the tastes we found in the liquor cabinet. Of course there were boy crushes which, as we did with all our new experiences, we analyzed to the point of absurdity.

    If you were a friend of Diane’s, it was not unusual to spend four hours on the phone with her and that was in the time of no call waiting or cell phones. My mother would often try to call me during the ‘Diane’ hours and out of frustration, she would resort to an emergency break in the conversation by the operator. Diane could charm a mute into a conversation. She was sprinkles on my ice cream.

    Unfortunately, when I moved back to my parents’ home, I wasn’t allowed to have friends that were not ‘pre-approved’. After high school I moved away from New Jersey and lost touch with her for many years. The shock of her tragic death was overwhelming.

    I have never forgotten her curious mind and infectious laugh. I still miss her.

    I am grateful to you for immortalizing her in this blog.

    Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t come through on my browser. I wonder if you wouldn’t mind sending me a copy?

    Sincerely,
    Alice

    • JoAnne McCrone-Ephraim on September 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      Hi there Alice,
      If you recall, a classmate of mine put us in touch some time ago and we shared a memory or two of my little sister. It was most heartwarming and my pleasure to do so!

      Although I did not realize it when we shared those memories, on Diane’s charm bracelet is a charm from you which is inscribed, “To Friendship! Love, Alice.” It will be my pleasure to send it to you as a keepsake, of the short but meaningful time you spent together so very long ago. My guess is that you would like to have it and I know Diane would want you to to have it too!

      Also, I wrote a response to Zan after reading her tribute to my sister and although it took a while I finally released it, sending it to Diane only instead of posting it on her blog. It is quite lengthly but if you would like to have a copy I will be happy to share my response with you too.

      Athough at times she could be wistful, Diane had an infectious laugh, mischievous eyes and a warm embrace. Even though I carry her in my heart, I have missed her each and every day!

      • Diane Chamberlain on September 23, 2011 at 7:03 pm

        JoAnne, gentle hugs.
        xoxox
        Zan

  30. Diane Chamberlain on September 15, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Alice, thank you so much for sharing your memories of Diane. I remember you–and I remember a party at your house that was wonderfully wild! I see that when my blog moved to a different server, Zan’s picture was lost so I will try to get it back and I’ll email you one just for you. Hope you’re doing well.

  31. Nana faulkner | Goldencove on January 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    […] Diane McCrone (aka Little Zan) | Diane ChamberlainJul 19, 2009 … Nana Faulkner says: February 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm. I knew Diane during her time at University of South Florida. She and I, along with several … […]

  32. Edie Harper on February 21, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you for making Diane searchable. I was Diane’s friend at USF and worked with her at the Natural Kitchen. We were fellow ‘sprout heads’, Virgos, and kindred spirits. Diane’s brief history in Tampa was ripe with humorous stories and one truly tragic ending that took Diane from us forever. The loss of Diane was devastating and incomprehensible. I searched for her name still hoping for some closure. How happy I was to see this beautiful photo capturing a more youthful, but truthful essence of Diane. Thank you for helping to keep Diane’s memory alive.

  33. Laurie Picillo on September 9, 2015 at 10:06 am

    When Facebook came in to being, I searched for many classmates from my elementary school days.
    We all walked to school, went home for lunch and ran around the town all summers long.
    About, 5 yrs ago, someone posted a picture of our kindergarten class, and we all began to reconnect.
    We now have get together’s at least twice a yr. We call ourselves “The growing up family”.
    We are at funerals, weddings and now support each other through so many times.

    I am so sorry for the loss of a wonderful friend. We never forget those we love, and keep those memories forever.

    • Diane Chamberlain on September 9, 2015 at 10:21 am

      Laurie, that’s so wonderful. I’m happy for you that you’ve reconnected with your “growing up family.”

  34. Elizabeth Irion on September 9, 2015 at 10:42 am

    I found this story to be very moving on many levels. It is going to stay with me for a long time. Thank you, Diane, for sharing.

  35. Guy on September 12, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    I did not know Diane long, just a month or so, but I never forgot her. We worked together at Dow Sherwood’s Village Inn in Tampa. I was an 18 year old college freshman in the late winter of 1978 and the only waiter on the staff. Diane was older than me – she was smart, funny and seemed sort of cool and worldly. We had two things in common 1) we were from Jersey and 2) we were the only two at the pancake house who ate parsley sprigs. I can’t explain it, but that seemed important at the time. We made a connection.

    I was working New Year’s Eve but Diane was off. She came in anyway and sat in my station. We laughed and joked the whole night. I delivered her food; she ate. I don’t remember if we kissed at midnight; I like to think we did. If nothing else, I’m sure we made some noise. We both liked making noise.

    She quit and started working at CDB Pizza. I only saw her once more, on a flight from Newark to Tampa a few months later. We weren’t seated together. We didn’t have a long conversation. We waved across the heads of people in the rows between us. We spoke briefly in the aisle.

    Sometime after that I was in a band. I was hanging fliers for an upcoming show on campus at the University of South Florida. That’s how I found out that Diane had been murdered. As I pinned up my Xeroxed page I saw a sign posted on the bulletin board – “Help us find the man who killed our friend”. Below was a picture of Diane. I was heartbroken.

    Right now, I’m sitting in restaurant not too different than that old Village Inn and I got to thinking about my time in Tampa as teenager. I’m glad that when I Googled Diane’s name that this post came up and I’m glad to know that her other friends remember her too.

    Thank you.

    Guy

    • Diane Chamberlain on September 12, 2015 at 10:09 pm

      Oh Guy, thank you for sharing this. You described Zan so well. I could picture her short but sweet relationship with you perfectly.
      I can imagine your shock when you saw that poster (I have one of those posters myself). I’m glad you have the sweet memory of her to hold onto.

  36. Rock Taber on May 11, 2019 at 10:21 am

    Diane,
    What a beautiful tribute! I too think about Diane from time to time, as we were fellow Geography students at USF. I remember studying with her in the library, and a spontaneous peck on her cheek.
    She was very happy and full of life!
    I have a picture of her somewhere that I took in class. I’ll try and send it to you when I find it.

    • Diane Chamberlain on May 11, 2019 at 10:48 am

      I’d love to see that picture, Rock! Thanks for sharing your memory of her.

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