NC: Fort Bragg District News
Sunday Salute: Dianne Coleman was a self-taught computer guru
Fayetteville Observer | January 17, 2015
BROADWAY - Most people looked at the big boxes and saw trouble.
Dianne Burgess Coleman saw opportunity. That's how she became the first computer guru of Harnett County's school system.
Coleman, who died Dec. 10 from symptoms of ALS, spent more than 30 years as a go-to person for technology in Harnett and Fort Bragg's school systems - and nearly all of it was self-taught, according to her husband, Linwood Coleman.
"She just got in there and read the instructions," he said. "She kept reading and learning and had a knack for sharing what she learned with others."
Coleman's daughter, Karen Coleman, said her mom was committed to working with others, but she kept work and home life separate.
"At her service, people kept telling us all these wonderful things she had done at work, but she never bragged on them," her daughter said. "To her, work was work and home was home. And she dedicated her time to both."
Coleman was born in the Broadway community, the only daughter of Gilbert and Rena Burgess. She was a country girl and a solid student, and she planned on being a teacher.
She met her future husband, Linwood, while he was working at a Lillington gas station in the late '60s. In 45 years of marriage, they raised two children and built close-knit relations with friends in Harnett County.
He became an officer in the state correctional system, and she went to work in the county school system. She was there when the district's first computers arrived.
"Everyone was scared to death of the things," her husband recalled. "They just sat, stacked in their boxes.
"Finally, Dianne just opened one of the boxes, pulled out the instructions and began reading."
Before long, she was visiting other schools, helping them enter the computer age. That led to a position in the Fort Bragg system, where she served as an information technology specialist for 31 years. She also taught evening classes at Central Carolina Community College.
"I don't recall Mom calling in sick, not one time," her daughter said. "She was dedicated to that job.
"One of the neatest things people told us she did was that she devised a way for students of military families to chat in real time with their deployed parents. This was all before Skype and programs like that. She created it herself."
Linwood Coleman says his wife never stopped learning, even while helping others.
"She loved what she was doing," he said. "She took that ball and ran with it."
In her spare time, Coleman was active in Crossroad Church in Broadway. She also loved to spend time at the beach.
"We had a little place down there, and got away when we could," her husband said.
Those times away became less frequent as ALS began to take its toll. Diagnosed in 2013, Coleman retired from Fort Bragg Schools, and daughters Patricia and Karen joined their dad in caring for her. The family's support group responded as well.
"We had a full-blown community of support," Karen Coleman said. "They helped make that time easier."
Linwood Coleman agreed. "She was a very smart, a very loving lady," he said. "In the time she was sick, she never complained.
"I think there's a lot of people who never would have touched a computer if she hadn't shown them how. It made her so happy to help other people open that door."
Staff writer Chick Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3515.