The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 5, February 3, 2008, Article 13


Ed Reiter writes: "I was taken aback by Dick Johnson’s
comments on Diane Wolf in the Jan. 27 edition of the E-Sylum.
I, too, have personal memories of Diane and, like just about
everyone who knew her, was startled to learn of her death
at the far too young age of 53.

"After reading Dick’s remarks, I can only conclude that he
never really got to know Diane as well as some of us did.
She was wealthy, to be sure, and the trappings of her wealth
were evident, as Dick notes, in her designer clothes, perfect
makeup and coiffure, and ample jewelry. I won’t even dispute
that she may have “appeared overdressed” to those more
focused on her clothes than on her cause.

"I take exception, however, to the suggestion that coinage
redesign was some kind of “harmless cause” that Diane latched
onto in an effort to relieve the boredom of being “a rich
girl with lots of free time.” I can vouch from many conversations
with her that she took this cause very seriously and worked
tirelessly in an effort to bring about meaningful change
in Americans’ pocket change.

"Diane contacted me shortly after being appointed in 1985
to the federal Commission of Fine Arts. I was then writing
the Numismatics column in the Sunday New York Times and had
devoted several of my weekly articles to the bland artwork
on regular U.S. coins and the dreadful designs on some modern
commemoratives. She invited me to lunch at a private club
in midtown Manhattan, where we spent several hours discussing
U.S. coinage, past, present and potential.

"Coinage is not the only subject – or even the primary
subject – that falls under the purview of the Fine Arts
Commission. It deals far more extensively with architecture
in Washington, D.C. But coinage was the subject that intrigued
Diane Wolf the most, and she chose to make coin redesign her
special cause, much as Teddy Roosevelt made it his “pet crime”
a century ago.

"Over the next half-decade, Diane worked ceaselessly – and
passionately – to win support for this cause, making personal
visits to anyone in Congress and any congressional staffers
who would listen. She participated in coin conventions,
contacted journalists, buttonholed influential friends and
acquaintances – and even came calling on Dick Johnson – to
get out the word that Americans’ coinage art needed to be
updated and upgraded.

"Dick says that as a lobbyist, Diane was “more show and
less substance.” What a mischaracterization! Yes, her glitzy
appearance may have seemed out of place in his workroom office.
But when it came to fighting for what she believed in, she
rolled up her sleeves with the best of them.

"The U.S. Senate passed legislation several times calling
for coinage redesign, but action was blocked in the House
by Illinois Congressman Frank Annunzio, chairman of the House
Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage. As Diane confided
to me, Annunzio’s opposition “wasn’t really about design
change. I think the whole thing was about the new guard
coming in and rocking the boat against the old guard.
Annunzio hadn’t started it. It was somebody else who had
started it – and it was a female and it was a young female.”

"As I wrote in an article in the June 2000 issue of COINage,
Diane felt vindicated when the 50 States Quarter Program
was approved and became enormously popular. She believed –
correctly, I think – that her years of effort promoting
redesign had helped pave the way for this breakthrough
(though she shared my opinion that the quarters’ designs
“could be better”).

"“In the end,” she said, “the bad guys lost and the good
guys won. And that’s really how I look at this whole thing.
In retrospect, I was blessed with a controversy. The more
controversial coin redesign became, and the more the
subject made the national papers, the better off it was
for getting new designs – because people actually looked
at the old designs and realized how much we needed new ones.”

"Diane said she was “proud of the job” she did.

"“I did such a good job that down the road a piece, people
still remember me even now. And I’m really delighted to
see the change in attitude toward coinage redesign – in
Congress and especially at the Mint. The government is
recognizing the revenue enhancement that we said it would
receive through redesign. The government is recognizing
that people are clamoring for a change. Kids are getting
involved in coin designs again. Everything we predicted
is coming true.”

"“We had a good thing; we had the right idea,” she
remarked. “We were just a little ahead of our time.” "

[Gar Travis forwarded this New York Post item on the
late Diane Wolf.  -Editor]

The New York philanthropic set was in shock yesterday
with news that socialite Diane Wolf - a large donor to
cultural institutions around the country - died following
a routine medical procedure.

Wolf, 53, died early Thursday at New York Hospital following
"an unexpected medical reaction to a minor procedure,"
said her art-dealer brother, Daniel Wolf.

The Fifth Avenue society woman gave generously to several
museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The
Whitney and The Frick.

In 1985, President Reagan appointed her to the
U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

Born in Cheyenne, Wyo., in 1954, Wolf was raised in Denver.
She got her bachelor's degree from the University of
Pennsylvania, a master's degree from Columbia and a law
degree from Georgetown.

With her passion for arts and politics, she split time
between New York and Washington, but always considered
the Big Apple her home.

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story


  Wayne Homren, Editor

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