Friends and family are remembering a former Christiansburg woman who died last week from complications associated with fungal meningitis as a caring person who loved life and worked tirelessly to make the world a better place.
Diana Bergeson Reed, a 1974 graduate of Christiansburg High School, died October 3. Her husband, Wayne Reed, is a 1971 graduate of the school. Wayne’s parents, Harden and Christine Reed, still live in Christiansburg.
Until just weeks before she died, Diana Reed was the picture of health. A lifelong advocate for social justice, she worked part-time at a Nashville non-profit agency. She nurtured a 36-year marriage that was the envy of many. She ran or swam daily. She volunteered. She was mother to two sons. She participated in Bible studies, hosted a book club and served as the go-to person for friends and family in need of a pep talk.
A good bit of Diana’s daily routine involved physical care for Wayne, who has suffered from a rare form of ALS for over 20 years. While time-consuming and sometimes exhausting for both Diana and Wayne, close friends say the disease did not define or consume this couple. They worked as a team, and together accomplished much. In 1998, years after Wayne’s diagnosis, they helped found the Wayne Reed Christian Childcare Center, a facility that serves one of Nashville’s low-income communities. The center’s website says that Diana knew each child at the center by name, and prayed for each daily.
A graduate of Vanderbilt University with a degree in dietetics, Diana went back to school for an accounting degree in 1984 so she could help Wayne with his accounting practice.
Bob Bergeson, Diana’s brother and a 1975 Christiansburg HS graduate, told a New York Times reporter, “Diana kind of became Wayne’s arms, legs and voice.”
Jeff Reed, Wayne’s younger brother and a Christiansburg resident described Wayne and Diana’s relationship:
“As hard as that was on him, it was just as hard, if not harder, on Diana. Everything she did, day and night, was focused on caring for Wayne,” Jeff said in an email.
“If you haven’t been in that situation, you cannot imagine the constant attention that has to be given to someone bound to a wheelchair. While Wayne was still able to walk, he routinely fell causing cuts that needed stitches as well as fractures. He has had numerous procedures, surgeries and illnesses related to his disease.
“Diana was with him every step of the way, always with a positive attitude, watching as his health continued to decline.
“When people say ‘for better or for worse … in sickness or in health.’ I don’t think they ever imagine the sickness being like this. The amazing thing is that, even as hard as life was for Wayne and Diana for over 20 years, it would be hard to find a marriage as strong and as special.”
Diana and Wayne continued to work together until meningitis began its swift attack in September.
Diana had been suffering from neck pain, and received three steroid injections from a Nashville facility that turned out to be one of the receivers of the meningitis-infected drug produced at the New England Compounding Center. She began to experience severe headaches, was hospitalized, had a series of strokes and went into a coma. An MRI showed extensive brain damage, and the family was told that Diana could live only in a vegetative state. Life support was withdrawn. Diana died surrounded by family and friends.
Testimony to a life well lived, an estimated 1,000 people attended a celebration of life service for Diana at Otter Creek Church in Nashville.
The Reed and Bergeson families continue to inspire those around them. In the week following Diana’s death, Wayne told a reporter that he feels blessed.
Diana’s brother Bob commented on Facebook, “My sister Diana always found a way to hold me up when I needed it the most. She would start most of our phone conversations with ‘Hey little buddy.’ We shared our lives – our joys and our sorrows – our hopes and our fears.
“Thank you to all my family and wonderful friends for all of the thoughts and prayers over the past few weeks. None of this seems real right now. Thanks to everyone who has held us up and will continue to hold us up as we begin our journey forward – may we all be blessed with a little bit of Diana’s ‘zest for life.’”
Bonnie Sumner of Christiansburg stayed in contact with Diana and Wayne over the years. “No matter what her circumstances, Diana was always interested in how other people were doing,” Sumner said.
“Talking to her always made me feel better. I’m going to try to be a better person, because she was so good. Everything she did made you smile.”
Jim Earp of Christiansburg, also a high school classmate of Diana’s, remembers Diana as “the most vivacious person I’ve ever met in my life. I never saw her get down about anything.”
The family is working on plans to ensure that Wayne has the physical help he needs.
Friends in the community have wondered how they can help Wayne and sons Erik and Kevin, all in the Nashville area, from Virginia. A donation to the fund that has been established in Diana’s name to help with expenses is one option:
Diana Reed Fund
401 Commerce St.
Nashville, TN 37219
Sister-in-law Linda Reed says that Wayne also encourages friends to donate to the Wayne Reed Christian Childcare Center. Donations may be sent in memory of Diana Reed to:
Wayne Reed Christian Childcare Center
11-B Lindsley Ave.
Nashville, TN 37210