Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tom Diez Dec. 4, 1933 - Feb. 3, 2014 Plum Resident Had a Lifelong Passion for Wildlife

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tom Diez Dec. 4, 1933 - Feb. 3, 2014 Plum Resident Had a Lifelong Passion for Wildlife

Article excerpt

About the only thing Tom Diez enjoyed more than the natural world was sharing it with young people. His passion for wildlife became a lifelong vocation.

A resident of Plum, he lectured for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, and his photos and movies were shown in venues as diverse as schools, museums and television.

Mr. Diez died of cancer Monday at UPMC St. Margaret near Aspinwall. He was 80.

The son of Thomas and Esther McDowell Diez, he grew up in Oakmont and Plum but thrived in the Dark Hollow woodlands outside of Oakmont, learning about insects, birds, mammals and particularly snakes, frogs and salamanders.

"When we were young, the thing that was really special about him was he was extremely knowledgeable about herpetology," said longtime friend Walter Smith of Mt. Lebanon. "He'd be telling me what type of snake or frog it was -- scientific names, everything -- when he was still in high school. He had a respect for nature and learned a lot about it."

Nicknamed The Hawk as a boy for his ability to spot wildlife, Mr. Diez attended Oakmont High School and The Kiski School in Saltsburg before studying biology at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. He took courses in zoology at the University of Pittsburgh.

For 45 years Mr. Diez supported his family as a self-employed wildlife photographer and videographer. He travelled the world capturing wildlife on film, presenting his work in wildlife lectures at school assemblies for grades K-12 throughout Pennsylvania.

"He brought critters home. There were live snakes in boxes in the basement," said niece Michelle Cellone of Coraopolis. "He taught us to appreciate every living thing and the importance of preserving them for future generations. We would spend hours on hikes, and he knew about everything."

Sometimes his journeys didn't work out so well, and stories about his adventures have taken on lives of their own. …

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