Billie Diamond’s daughter Liz tells of a descriptive moment from her mother’s life.
Years ago, during Diamond’s tenure as an elementary school teacher at Citrus Grove and Coral Park from 1960 to 1986, the Miami-Dade Public School Board saw fit to award her its Teacher of the Year award.
Diamond, who died at 90 on Aug. 7, declined.
“Her response was, ‘No thank you. I am not the best teacher. There are lots of good teachers.’ She didn’t believe it was good for the teaching community to have a Best Teacher award,” Liz Diamond said.
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Diamond, a 60-year resident of Coral Gables, simply believed in teaching.
“Other grandparents took their children to movies and carnivals. Billie took her grandchildren to the Everglades to see a comet at 3 a.m., to museums and libraries — ever the teacher,” her daughter said.
The New York-born Diamond, a board member of the Dranoff International 2 Piano Foundation, always called her own tune.
At her service, Diamond’s sister Joan Brenner spoke of an amusing World War II performance in which the former Beula Greenberg changed her named to Billie Vermont (a loose translation of Greenberg from the French word Vermont for green mountains.) Billie entertained service men with her signature song, A Bird in a Gilded Cage.
“She wore a big feathered hat and a long gown with a huge bustle in the back. She would walk across the stage as she sang and the bustle, of course, followed. But occasionally — intentionally — she walked one way and the bustle crawled the other way. The soldiers howled. Guess who was inside the bustle?
“The number was always a hit. All it cost me was some sore knees,” Brenner said, noting “We were built very differently. She was sturdy, developing early.”
Sturdy. Fun. Engaging.
“Two Capricorns butting heads,” Liz Diamond laughed when describing one element of their relationship. “She was a force of nature and although she was quick to anger, she was quicker to forgive and have another good laugh. My mother loved to laugh and when she laughed everyone laughed with her and so when you were with Billie Diamond you were going to have a good time.”
Many got to know Diamond. She, along with her husband, the late Jack Diamond, was among the 12 co-founders of Temple Beth Am in Kendall in 1955. “The house Billie and Jack built,” the rabbi said at her service. She loved playing piano so she served the Dranoff Foundation for more than 20 years. She was also a child advocate and volunteer with Guardian Ad Litem.
In 2000, Voices for Children honored Diamond as Guardian Ad Litem’s recipient of the Lorraine Munroe Outstanding Volunteer Award. “Known for her ‘never say no’ attitude and cheerful personality, Diamond has worked with the guardian program since 1986 and has overseen 32 children in 15 different cases,” the Miami Herald reported.
“When she was into something her passion was unbounding and limitless,” her daughter said.
In addition to her daughter and sister, Diamond is survived by her children Barry and Dan Diamond, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Services were held. Donations in Diamond’s name can be made to the Dranoff International 2 Piano Foundation or Guardian Ad Litem.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.