Excerpt from Distant Milepost, by E. Grey Dimond
For years, I have enjoyed using the label Diastole. This began in 1952 when I built a home at 5201 West 103rd street, Overland Park, Kansas. On vacation that year, in Carmel, California, I had a handsome pair of swinging redwood gates made for the new home’s entrance with Diastole boldly carved into them. I had been deep in the field of cardiology for a decade and the word seemed suitable for my home. In addition, I simply liked the word. Diastole is a word with a bit of music and poetry in it. Diastole: when the heart rests.
I kept a horse on the property, and a heart patient, a skilled jeweler, made me a gold clasp of a heart sitting on rockers, like a rocking chair, a clever way to express the heart at rest: Diastole. He thought of my place as a ranch and his rocking chair heart would be the brand.
I moved to California in 1960 and for a weekend place acquired a hideaway down in a canyon at Rancho Santa Fe. The land was a mile from the nearest highway and I had a redwood Diastole sign fixed to a huge boulder, as you turned the final curve.
When I returned to the Midwest in 1970, I brought the sign with me and it is in the garden of Diastole on Hospital Hill.
At about this same time, I was making a monthly hour-long audiotape on cardiology for the American College of Cardiology. I did this for ten years. As the new UMKC medical school came into existence, I felt that the new school should claim the sponsorship for the monthly audiotape. Writing, producing, marketing, packing, labeling, mailing the tape all over the country was a major effort requiring not only time and effort but finances. Faculty wives did a lot of the labor. I was advised by my lawyer, Ilus Davis, that I should incorporate as a non-profit business for the project, and did so.
What name should it have? Diastole-Hospital Hill, Inc.!
I kept this UMKC taping project going for 8 years. This added on to the years of making the audiotape for the ACC was a total of 18 years of an hour-long tape varying from 12 to 9 tapes a year. Try it sometime? There is quite a bit of systole in the effort.
The new nonprofit corporation had three officers. With me were Dr. Harry Jonas and Dr. Henry Mitchell, two delightful companions with good imaginations, energy, and fellowship. We made no money, lost no money, and perhaps did some good with our monthly teaching tape.
During these years, Mary D. and I had shared the excitement and surprises of trying to get the new medical school started. Hospital Hill’s neighborhood was essentially an abandoned urban area. The city and its people had moved away from it. The neighborhood had become the refuge of the left-behind. We both believed in what we were doing and we were convinced that the dynamics underway would ultimately revive the area. A new Children’s Mercy Hospital, a new Truman Medical Center, UMKC Dental, Nursing and Medical schools, the long-term commitment of Western Missouri Mental Health Center, the near-neighbor of Crown Center—all of these could not be denied.
The patients, the staffs, the faculty, the students, and the budgets to support all, would create a great medical center. It would take years to have visible results. We decided to build our home there and let it be the flag declaring we were believers.
We did this in 1976. A redwood town house popped up on the corner of 25th and Holmes. One large plank to the left of the front door had carved into it Diastole. It was the first new home building permit in central Kansas City in 50 years. We gave a party and our friends from over the city came to see what a foolish thing we had done. The house did look as if it should be in California.
Mary D. and I had seven happy action-filled years there on the corner of 25th and Holmes. We came up to my 65th year, 1983, and we agreed we would divide our life between the ranch in California and the new Diastole. Suddenly, without warning, Mary D. passed away. Harry Jonas, Henry Mitchell, Ed Twin, Mary D.’s daughters Claire and Louisa, my daughter Lark and I took part of her ashes to my family cemetery in Winona, Mississippi.
I let my life steep for awhile, mulled, thought, weighed. I decided to stay put at 25th and Holmes and wave the flag more vigorously, permanently. Permanent as plans can be. With the already incorporated name, Diastole-Hospital Hill, Inc. and its Board, Harry, Henry, myself, we defined a larger commitment: an endowed facility for people where they could gather and plan and do. The facility would have no agenda, no programs. The plans and programs would be those of the users. Again with kind and firm guidance by Ilus Davis, the legal status of Diastole-Hospital Hill, Inc. was defined.
From that decision, years went by as property was assembled, remodeled, taken down, fenced, cemented, planted, constructed. It was not to be a faculty club, not a dining room, not a bar, not an old London wood-paneled club, formal and stiff and with tradition. To get a range of ideas, I went to Dartmouth to see their Montgomery House, to Wisconsin to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wingspread, to Birmingham to see a new facility the University of Alabama was developing. Gradually, by letting time pass, exploring ideas, letting experience and events define the intent, a very different building, copying nothing, always youthful, perhaps even provocative of communication, roaming, open, ranging, Diastole has come to life.
In the document declaring the Donors’ intent are these words:
We trust the Board will be meticulous in the maintenance and supervision of the Center, generous in sharing it, liberal in its definition. Our only ambition is that the Center should add to the quality of endeavor of the colleagues of Hospital Hill campus and the departments of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Nothing would sadden us more than for the spirit of this gift to be interpreted frugally, grudgingly . . . We both, Mary and Grey, have a faith in human dialogue, social intercourse, the amenities of scholarly communication, and the encouragement of these by a felicitous setting.
We offer the Center to further that faith.
Now, 30 years later, more than 100,000 guests have used the facility. The above words have been fully followed. In a synoptic phrase, one can say Diastole is a happy place.
In the same span of years, a staff of delightful, livable, imaginative people has given the facility a spirit, a warmth, an essence that is not buyable but from the heart. We have been selfish and when someone has been a part of the Diastole family we don’t really let them go. Those making the place live, past and present, are Frieda Bader, Karen Canon, Nancy Hill, Diane Magers, Louise Parrish, Beth Dowell, John Fogarty, Vern Sellmeyer, Nancy Day, Rachel Wiseman, Eric Storey, Jill Alexander. The first Board member , Henry Mitchell, is there, his ashes are on his own Henry’s Hill.