Diana Helper, a well-known community leader and passionate advocate for city parks who wrote for The Washington Park Profile for many years, died March 1 after a battle with liver cancer. She is survived by her husband, John, her son and several grandchildren.
Helper was in her 80s and moved to Denver in 1955.
She spent decades working to better the community in Denver. As a member of the Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC), she worked on several committees, including parks and recreation.
“Diana worked so hard on many of INC’s committees and left a mark on them all,” said Maggie Price, co-chair of the Parks and Recreation committee, in an email. “She was one in a million.”
Helper also worked with her Registered Neighborhood Organization, the University Park Community Council (UPCC). Her pride and joy was helping create Prairie Park at 2551 Buchtel Blvd. South. The park, which preserves natural grasslands in the area, was designated in 2014.
Helper fought for 38 years to convert the 14-acre long stretch into official park land. The area, which runs along Buchtel Boulevard in the University Park neighborhood, was first owned by a railroad company before being passed along to the Regional Transportation District, which then gave the land to the Denver City Council, according to the University Park Community Council website. A billboard gives more information on the history of the land at Prairie Park.
John Helper brought a bouquet of roses to the billboard and placed them there after Diana’s death.
George Mayl, president of the INC, said the organization is looking into dedicating a memorial bench to Helper, possibly one along Buchtel Boulevard.
For more than 30 years, Helper has been a contributing writer to the Profile, writing the monthly column “Helper Here and Now.” Her columns also have run more recently in Life on Capitol Hill.
“I don’t remember a time before Diana Helper,” said Councilmember Paul Kashmann, who began working at the Profile shortly after it was founded in 1978. He took over as owner in 1983, the same year Helper began to write monthly columns for the paper. Her column, then called “University Park News and Views,” helped raise the profile of the neighborhood, Kashmann said.
“She was a steadfast, unique voice for her community. She had a love for words and puns and poetry and song,” he said. “She was an integral part of a great project.”
In the past several months, Helper’s columns began to focus more on sustainability. Going green was her new passion project, and she participated in sustainability groups in the INC and UPCC. She also helped with community outreach on the topic at the United Methodist Church in University Park.
After Kashmann left the Profile and was elected to Denver City Council in 2015, he continued working with Helper, who he called a “tireless advocate” for city parks. Although she was passionate in fighting for what she believed in, Kashmann said Helper also was a great listener, even in her last weeks.
“She was as bright and on-point and energized as she ever has been,” he said. “She was a gentle person.”
This article will be updated with memorial information as it becomes available.