Dianne L. Duner

When Dianne Duner talked about the twists and turns encountered by the Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees in their long quest to build a new facility, she often referred to Sisyphus, the mythical deceitful king of Corinth, doomed by Zeus to roll a boulder up a hill only to have it eternally roll back down again.

“We’d roll that boulder up to the top and there were so many things at the top that prevented us from going over,” Duner told a small crowd gathered on Sept. 19, 2020 during a “topping-off” ceremony for the still-under-construction Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library.

It’d still be 10 months before Duner could stand in front of the completed building and cut the ribbon, but even on that early fall day in 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic, she knew the main task had been completed.

“What’s behind my back,” Duner said, gesturing to the construction zone behind her, “is what was on the other side of the mountain.”

“The biggest moment of her post-retirement life was the ribbon-cutting,” said her son, Kenyon Duner, who was inspired by his mother, a longtime educator, to seek out public service as a Brookfield Parks & Recreation commissioner. “She didn’t want to leave the library board until it was done and open.”

The job done, Duner had decided not to run this spring for another term as a library trustee and planned to put a cap on her more than 20 years in the post by formally handing over the gavel she held as president on May 24. 

But that day she was admitted to the hospital and on June 4, 2023, Duner died at the age of 81.

“She was a true library champion,” said library Director Kimberly Coughran, who was hired in 2005 when Duner was serving as board president. “I loved her; we all loved her. It will leave a gaping hole in our hearts for a long time.”

Born Dianne L. Levand in Berwyn, she grew up in Cicero and Berwyn, attending grade school at St. Anthony’s in Cicero and Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park before setting off to Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education.

She married a man who was in the military and the couple first settled in Florida, near Cape Canaveral, where Duner worked as a teacher before moving on to North Carolina and Texas.

Duner divorced and moved back to Berwyn. In 1971, she moved to an apartment in Brookfield that she would call home for the next 52 years. The village was a good central location for her, with parents in Berwyn, a brother in LaGrange and her job teaching French and English in LaGrange Highlands School District 106.

After obtaining her master’s degree, Duner was named District 106’s curriculum and staff development director, a position she held until her retirement.

Around the year 2000 she began her career as a library trustee in Brookfield, first as an appointed official. 

“She was always a frequent user of the library, and she would do programs there,” said Kenyon Duner. “They knew her well enough that when there was an opening, they asked her.”

She won her first election as part of a PEP Party slate in 2001 and would remain in that role until 2023, when she opted not to run again.

Although Kenyon Duner said his mother was more of a “book person” when it came to the library, she recognized how the institution was changing as technology evolved and libraries’ growing reputation as community gathering spaces.

Coughran said that, as a library trustee and president, Duner allowed staff the room to develop programming and other initiatives.

“She greatly despised any kind of micromanagement in large part because she worked for a public school district,” Coughran said. “As an administrative team member and head of curriculum, she knew the board’s place, and she made sure those duties were carried out.”

Duner’s legacy at the library lives on, since the reference desk is named for the Duner family.

For service and other information, see the death notice.