Diane “Dee” Ankner, former president of the Baldwin American Legion Auxiliary Post — the Ladies Auxiliary— died in her home on Aug. 21 of complications of cardiovascular desease. She was 72.
Ankner was a lifelong Baldwinite who grew up in Baldwin Harbor with her parents and 10 brothers and sisters. Her father, Arthur Hoffman, was the chief of the Baldwin Fire Department from 1950 to 1951, giving her an early appreciation of community service.
She grew up in the Baldwin School District, attended Steele Elementary School and graduated from Baldwin High School in 1963. “She was [in] Baldwin her whole life,” said Joe Keating, her significant other for more than 11 years. “It’s a tremendous loss, because she was such a vital part of the Baldwin community. The community is losing a real gem, and a real wonderful gal.”
Ankner was active in several organizations in Baldwin and Freeport, including American Legion Post #246 and the Freeport chapter of the Elks.
“I’ve known [her] for as long as I’ve been a member here, which is eight, going on nine years,” said Robert Hare, Post 246’s commander
She was president of the Ladies Auxiliary from 2015 to 2016, Hare added, noting she was a longtime active member.
At the American Legion, she was known as a great cook who always had a smile and a plate of food waiting — often bringing in home-cooked food for hungry patrons. She also acted as a volunteer bartender.
“They loved her, she was very popular,” said Lora Kessinger, Ankner’s daughter. “Everybody came to see her.”
Ankner would put snacks out and cook meatballs in crockpots, Kessinger added. “Of all the bartenders, she’s the one who would bring all the food … There used to be no space on the bar for drinks because she’d bring all this food.”
Her family and friends remember her as a deeply religious woman who was proud of her cooking and enjoyed being the life of the party. Her favorite color was red, and she loved cardinals, seeing them as signs from God.
“I’d describe her as a constant ray of sunshine,” Hare said. “She was the kind of person who would come down here, and if you were having a bad day it would get better, and if you were having a good day, it would just get great.”
About five years ago, Ankner had cardiovascular surgery to have a heart valve replaced. Later she suffered a stroke, which left the left side of her body paralyzed.
“She didn’t look like she had a stroke,” Keating said. “She recovered from the stroke … she was just an incredible fighter. Nothing kept her down.”
She is survived by two sisters, Julie and Agnes; two brothers, Jimmy and Douglas; six children, 17 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild, with another on the way.
A wake was held on Aug. 23 and 24 at the Cecere Funeral Home. The funeral was on Aug. 25 at Calvary Protestant Church, where Ankner regularly attended Mass. She was buried at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale.
“Diane was probably one of the most caring, giving people you’d ever want to meet,” said Keating, who noted that she barbecued with her family the weekend before her death. “To a fault she was generous to everybody, and she was loved by everybody. She truly lived her life to the fullest.”