Diocesan News

Catholic Foundation helps family honor memory

Scholarships will help students who want to live their Catholic faith like Dianne Sizemore did

Story by Reagan Scott

LINCOLN (SNR) - When Dianne Sizemore passed away December 31, 2015, after a hard-fought battle with cancer, her husband Jim knew that he wanted to do something to honor her memory.

He started three scholarship endowment funds in Dianne’s name at Lincoln’s Pius X High School, Grand Island Central Catholic High School, and the newest at the Catholic Foundation.

The Dianne Sizemore Endowment Fund at Pius and Grand Island Central Catholic began awarding scholarships annually beginning last year.  

This year, the endowment that he started with the Catholic Foundation, known as the Dianne Sizemore Scholarship Endowment, will start awarding scholarship money to one senior in

high school who is involved in the Godteen program at St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln, to help defer the cost of post-secondary education.  

Jim and Dianne were Godteen leaders themselves, even when Dianne was battling cancer. Dianne’s example had an enormous impact on the students in their group, according to Chris Raun, the executive director of the Catholic Foundation.

The scholarship is set up through the Catholic Foundation which helps Catholics with charitable planning services and management of gifts to ensure their sustained impact.

“We help people to be charitable in a way that is meaningful to them. It makes giving so much more fulfilling,” Raun said. “Jim is honoring his wife, but also doing something important for the Church by supporting a student who wants to grow in his or her Catholic faith.”

By helping students who want to live their Catholic faith like Dianne did, Jim Sizemore would like to honor his wife’s incredible legacy.

“What Jim is doing is a very fulfilling act of charity,” Raun said. “He’s giving money to honor his wife and is doing something with the money that she would appreciate.” 

Dianne was born in Berlin, Wisc. on October 13, 1958. She and her family moved to Grand Island where she attended Catholic school and attended Grand Island Central Catholic. She later met her soon-to-be husband Jim at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the two were married for 37 years.

“Prior to being sick she was a very ordinary person who had an extraordinary Catholic faith,” Jim said. “You run into some people, and you can sense their faith. Dianne was one of those people for others.”

Dianne loved to be involved and volunteered often. She was on the board of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and volunteered at Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach.

In 2009, Jim and Dianne’s lives were forever changed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer; but after a double mastectomy and 40 days of daily radiation treatment, Dianne was found to be cancer free.

Her journey with cancer wasn’t over, however. It returned again after three years. Following a second round of treatment, Dianne was found to be cancer free yet again, but three months later, the cancer had returned.

Despite the diagnosis, Jim said Dianne’s faith never wavered. “Her faith gave her the guidance she needed,” he said. Jim said that throughout her battle with cancer, his wife never stopped hoping for a miracle.

As Dianne continued to receive cancer treatment, hundreds of people would come by the Sizemores’ house to visit, and all were affected by her cheerful disposition and the way she would take the time to talk to everyone and ask about their lives.

“So many people believe that they got so much more from her and grew in their faith. They felt that she was that close to heaven,” Jim said. “She used her faith to put her burden of cancer on Christ’s cross.”

Dianne would not beat cancer a third time. She passed away on December 31, 2015.

Jim doesn’t want cancer to be the only thing people think about when they remember Dianne though. “Cancer didn’t define Dianne’s life. Her soul never had cancer, only her body,” he said.

After Dianne’s death, Jim began working earnestly on a book about his wife’s story which he entitled “Dianne’s Blessings.” In it, he outlines his wife’s journey and her incredible faith.

The first copy of the book was printed on October 13, 2016, Dianne’s birthday.

The book included quotes from seven of the men who brought Communion to Dianne at her home and Jim noted something special when these men came to visit.

“They received from her more than they thought they were giving to her,” Jim said. “The miracle that she had been hoping for didn’t happen to her, but to all of the people around her.” 

Phil Essay, one of the men who brought Communion to Dianne, noted another miracle mentioned in the book.

Essay said, “I know that Dianne believed in a miracle; a cure for her cancer. She got a miracle, all right. It just wasn’t what she expected. Dianne’s miracle was that her eyes were opened to the power of each and every moment.”

All of the men felt similarly, noting her strength, courage and her desire to make others feel good, even when she was not.

By publishing his book, Jim hopes to inspire others by sharing his wife’s story of courage, and he is also using proceeds from the book to continue to fund the Dianne Sizemore scholarship.

“A scholarship seems like a small thing in terms of her memory,” Jim said.

In the future, Jim hopes to expand the endowment to award scholarships to three or four students annually. In doing this, he will continue to inspire the winners of these scholarships to live as Dianne did.

Jim said, “Dianne had a beautiful life on earth, full of joy and happiness. I can look back and smile at her beautiful life.  I believe her reward in heaven is even better.”

Donations can be sent to the Catholic Foundation for the Dianne Sizemore Endowment Fund.  

Copies of the book “Dianne’s Blessings” are available at diannesblessings.com, amazon.com or Gloria Deo.

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