Goodbye, D


Heather and D on St. Patrick's Day.

It’s with a slight buzz, a massive need for rest and a very heavy heart that I write this somber news: Dianna “D” Gardner, former owner of the Tipsy Turtle Pub and Galloway Station, died Thursday night after a long and very difficult battle with cancer. A wealth of her family and friends, including longtime customers who knew her well, gathered at the Tipsy Turtle Friday night to celebrate her memory–hence my buzz. Illness setting in or no, I had to remember D in the way she would have wanted: no tears, no pain, just a toast, a smile and a “remember that time when…”

I remember that time when I walked into the Turtle on St. Patrick’s Day 2007 and saw the most gorgeous woman I’d seen in ages, the sort that makes a writer want to immediately duck in a corner and write poetry, as if such a thing still wooed women in the Twentyfirst Century. Anyway, I was buying drinks and trying my best when I went to the bar for my next round and D was playing around with a green clown wig. Being inebriated and the type of guy who can be pretty silly when he is, I put it on. She told me to keep it on, and I did. So what if it affected my chances with the girl; D asked me to, and I wasn’t about to say no. She’d always done for me and never asked for anything. There was never a time she didn’t greet me with a smile on her face and a warm hug. On the nights she could afford to, a good long chat almost always followed. D did this for everybody, really, but it felt like it was for me, and that meant everything. The wig stayed, the girl eventually went. I asked D about halfway into the night–once I saw the girl losing interest–what was in it for me? “I’ll pay your tab,” she said with a smile and not a second thought. Bingo. More shots for said girl, myself and various friends. Sure enough, at the end of the night, I didn’t pay a dime–and I should have owed many, many, many. That was D; just as long as you had a good time, it was okay. At close, I pulled the wig off, double-checked that she was serious about the tab (she was, and wouldn’t hear another word in contrary), gave her a huge drunken hug and stumbled out the metal door into the freezing-cold back lot. I never got the girl’s number, but I had an unforgettable memory and story to tell, all courtesy of one person.

That’s the last time I remember seeing D. Not long after that cancer took hold and she never came around the bar. She eventually sold to her longtime friend Heather Anderson, the Turtle’s present owner, and soon after began the fight of her life in a hospital in Houston. By her birthday party this past February, things were looking as bad as possible, and the event turned into a fundraiser to help the family pay medical bills. Days later, after a moment where friends and family were flown down to say goodbye, D somehow pulled through–a miracle, Turtle regulars said, and they swore it was all because of the outpouring of love and care of the people at the party that day. A few months later, she was back in Springfield and on the road to recovery. It would be a long time, doctors said, before she could be out and about again, and especially until she could visit her old friends at the bar she’d poured every ounce of herself into, same as Galloway Station before it. But after numerous moments where everyone was sure she wouldn’t pull through, D was back and her old stubborn self. That was D; she was a fighter. She would get through this, somehow.

Cancer doesn’t believe in somehow. Earlier this week D fell and broke her hip; when she went in for diagnosis, doctors found more cancer cells after eradicating so many before. This was advanced, this was serious… this had no way out. Now, a few days later, she’s gone.

To a woman who gave her heart to everything she did and everyone she met, I can only give my heart in return as I write this. D, you were truly one of a kind. Know that you mattered, that people benefited from all that you did, that music found a home in the places you gave it, and that we’ve all lost a dear friend–the truest kind, the selfless kind. Goodbye, D. We love you. Thank you.

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One Response to “Goodbye, D”

  1. The Show Report, 10/3: The what-the-heck-are-they-doing-there edition « Says:

    […] * Music throughout the day and night at The Tipsy Turtle Pub raising funds for charity in memory of a very special woman. […]

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