Life-long Falls Cityan, beloved school teacher passes away Sunday

Diana Kottich, an elementary school teacher to hundreds of Falls City children for all or part of five separate decades, after a courageous and extended battle with cancer passed away Sunday morning, Dec. 14, 2014 at Community Medical Center. She was 58. 

Memorial Services for Mrs. Kottich will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014 at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 20th and Towle Sts., with Rev. Andrew Chavanak officiating. Inurnment will be at a later date. The family will receive friends from 6-7 p.m. Wednesday at Dorr and Clark Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, the family prefers memorials to the Richardson County Cancer Fund or the Richardson Foundation.

Diana Merz was born and raised in Falls City, attended FC Public Schools and graduated from FC High School. After college, she married another life-long Falls Cityan, Stephen Kottich, and they came home to work and raise a family. Mr. Kottich succeeded in business, was a popular mayor and is, to this day, a prominent community activist. Meanwhile, they raised two daughters and while Mr. Kottich led on main street, Mrs. Kottich led in the classroom, making an immeasurable impression on generations of young people. Diana educated children inside FCPS’ North and South Elementary School buildings at various grade levels for more than 30 years. Her career spanned from 1979 to 2012, when illness forced her retirement in January of that year. 

  Her popularity was palpable. Upon being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, friends and family launched “Team Diana,” andFalls City was quickly painted teal, the color designated to promote ovarian cancer awareness. Teal “Team Diana” T-shirts, with the words “Pray-Hope-Believe” inscribed on the front, were sold to benefit the Richardson County Cancer Fund and boxes upon boxes were unloaded and emptied, many at a benefit dinner and auction held at the Elks Club. Last spring the town was painted teal in support of “Team Diana.” Faculty members and students from all the schools for a day exchanged their orange, black, green and/or white for teal. Soon, local businesses donned the uniform teal, as did families, alumni volleyball teams, reuniting classmates, marathoners and even the Easter Bunny. “Team Diana Merz Kottich” joined Facebook on March 28. A week later, it had some 600 fans.

“I am quite impressed with the activity this page has gotten in just the past two hours,” the “Team Diana” administrator posted that day in March. “Let’s see where these shirts are being worn. Please feel free to post pictures and comments to Diane via this page.”

Among the ensuing posts:

“We love you!”

“Diana, you were the coolest and most loving teacher ever! When I grew up I wanted to be just like you!”

“Blessed with the greatest aunt!”

“Love and hugs to you, Diana!”

“Five Generations Supporting Team Diana! Praying for you every day!”

Supporters posted from Biloxi, Mississippi, to Kearney, Nebraska; from New Orleans to Las Vegas; from eastern Iowa to Memphis. Without question, however, all that love originated in Falls City, Nebraska, where 613 “Team Diana” shirts have been sold, leaving an inventory of 10.

Diana L. (Merz) Kottich was born June 15, 1956 in Falls City to the late Orville A. and Helen A. (Constantine) Merz.

On Aug. 20, 1977 she married Stephen Kottich in Falls City.

Diana graduated from FC High School in 1974 and then attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Development. 

She enjoyed teaching, reading, shopping or anything that included her children and grandchildren. She was a member of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Diana is survived by her husband, of Falls City; daughters, Erin (Doug) Waller, of Falls City, and Aliza (Nick) Stremlau, of Lincoln; sister, Vicky (Matt) Froeschl, of Falls City; brother, Larry R. (Nancy) Merz, of Kearney; sisters, Betty (Richard) Malcolm, of Falls City, and Marilyn (Keith) Ramsey, of Valley; sister-in-law, Darlene Merz, of Stromsburg; and four grandchildren, Stella and Sam Waller and Harrison and Parker Stremlau. 

She was preceded in death by her parents and a brother, Duane Merz.

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