Diehl, Virginia, “Tinka”, 85,
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passed peacefully March, 24, 2021, following an extended stay at Mansfield Center for Rehabilitation after serious complications from a series of strokes in 2019. Virginia, better known as “Tinka”, was a beloved member of her community in both Coventry, Connecticut, where she and her late husband Paul Diehl, Sr., “Pops”, raised their five children on the shores of Coventry Lake, and in later Tampa, Florida, where she and Paul became full time residents, in sync with their children’s migration to warmer climates.
Born in New York City in 1936 and raised primarily in Binghamton NY with her sister Inge Trump and two brothers Christopher and Norman Trump, Tinka was the second child born to first generation German parents who left Germany before WWII broke out. Tinka embraced all things American, especially hot dogs, which was her lifelong favorite food no matter what the other enticing options were available. After high school, Tinka attended Katherine Gibbs, the elite secretarial school in Boston, MA but her true passion was raising children. With her husband Paul usually working several jobs at once, Tinka focused on keeping her children Chris, Paul, Fred, Bill, and Heidi well fed and well cared for. Their home on Coventry Lake was the center of activity, always buzzing with the kids and their friends whether playing pool, water skiing or just getting up to mischief. Occasionally, Tinka would be the one leading the charge with her irreverent attitude to conventional standards. No memory of those days would be complete without describing the massive volumes of food that Tinka served up to all comers. The Diehl house was also a welcomed refuge for UConn foreign exchange students from around the world including Sudhakar Shenoy, an engineering student from India, who later became an American citizen and has stayed in close touch with the family to this day. Another much loved, “adopted” family member Michael “Victor” Lavallee, spent many summers on the lake with the Diehl gang and has become like another son. Victor loved Tinka and never missed his Saturday visits to the nursing home to cheer her up, come rain or shine.
Tinka was always an active part of her community. In Coventry, she and Pops were leaders in the fight against Devco, to protect Coventry from a massive urbanization project which was slated for this small country town. This battle, with its slogan “Keep the Cows in Coventry”, galvanized the community and was ultimately successful. She also volunteered on the Coventry Welfare Board for 10 years and in her later years, was a leader in the Connecticut Club group out of Melbourne, Florida where she and Paul lived before moving to Tampa. In both places, she developed long term friendships with elderly woman living alone who she would regularly take shopping, to the doctor or out to dinner.
In addition to raising kids, Tinka worked from 1976-1982 at Bynes Dentistry in Coventry. She maintained her passion for good teeth and even when times were tough financially, she made sure all her kids received great dental care, first with Dr. Jack Bynes, and later at the UConn school of Dentistry. A long running family joke is that her very first comment upon meeting son Paul’s girlfriend and later wife Amy, was “oh, she’s got good teeth!”. Tinka was very outspoke about her opinions, the more outrageous the better; never one to censor herself, you usually knew where your stood with her. This was often cause for much hilarity, plus the occasional hurt feelings. She had been lovingly described as “feisty” and “a force of nature”.
In 1983, Tinka and Pops pulled up stakes and moved to Florida, settling in Melbourne FL. In 1992, they moved to Tampa to help Paul and his wife Amy raise their children Alex, Chris and Corey while they ran their family business. Once again, Tinka got to do what she loved most which was take care of children. Once again, the Diehl house became the gathering place of loads of kids of all ages playing in the water, shooting pool, and making mischief. Once again, the kitchen counter was loaded with kid-friendly food every day after school. Son Fred, ex-wife Angela, and their sons Kyle and Kent often made the drive from Miami to Tampa to take part in the fun. Halloween was always a favorite holiday with Tinka and Pops dressed up in crazy costumes to dispense candy to the hordes of trick-or-treaters while all the grandsons were loading their own candy bags at the neighbor’s houses.
Life is a rollercoaster and with the good times also comes difficult ones. A major sadness in Tinka’s life was the unexpected death of her grandson Chris, Paul and Amy’s middle son, who died in 2014. Tinka was a welcomed member in the Helping Parents Heal, Tampa chapter, a parent’s grief group that Paul and Amy are active in, but this loss struck her deeply and she never quite regained the zest for life she had before. After Pop’s passed away in February of 2018, Bill, Fred and Heidi joined together to help Tinka move back to Coventry to be closer to Heidi. Not long after the move, Tinka’s health declined to the point that she had to go live at Mansfield Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing where she lived the final two years of her life. Heidi visited her on a daily basis, first with in-person visits, and later after Covid hit, sitting outside her window to chat through the phone, no matter what the weather. Thankfully, Tinka held on long enough for the nursing home to open up and allow family members to visit her in her room two at a time and say their goodbyes. The family wishes to thank the wonderful staff at the Mansfield Center for Rehabilitation for their long term dedication, their love and laughter, and their commitment to helping Tinka and her family through her final days.
Tinka is pre-deceased by her husband Paul Diehl Sr, her grandson Chris, and her parents Fred and Wanda Trump. She is survived by sons Chris, Paul and spouse Amy, Fred and William Diehl and daughter Heidi Diehl and partner Mike Martin, and grandsons Alex, Corey, Kent and Kyle Diehl. She also leaves her brothers Christopher and Norman Trump and sister Inge Trump. She will be missed deeply by her family and her many close friends in both Coventry and Tampa.
The family will hold a celebration of her life this summer. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Mansfield Center for Rehabilitation- 100 Warren Circle, Storrs, Ct 06268