Portage pondering legacy of princess

By Micah Panczyk Record-Courier staff writer Published:

"People saw her as beautiful and fortunate, but also as pathetic and frail," said Karen Beck, a Kent resident eating breakfast with friends Saturday at Bar Ten in Ravenna. "But it seemed like everyone could relate to her."

The frailty she referred to was the dissolution of Diana's marriage to Prince Charles and her bout with bulimia. Though a princess, Diana knew the quarrels and pains common to the age in which she lived.

"She was not in an ivory tower," Beck added. "Or, if she was, she let the rope down for others. She was a princess who would wear jeans."

"It's sad," said Linda Knippenberg, a waitress at the East Park Restaurant in Ravenna. "I can't go on (with the interview) right now," she said in tears.

The anguish wrought by Diana's gloomy death has led many to recall the death of President Kennedy in 1963.

"When President Kennedy died, we reacted with tears because that's how our teacher reacted." said Ravenna resident Lucy Ribelin, who had joined Beck for breakfast. "I was too young to really understand it, but it seemed a little like Diana's death. Both were in the hospital and all the public knew was that each was badly injured and awaiting surgery. Then, the next thing we knew, they were gone."

"I think the response to this (Diana's death) is more magnified than Kennedy's," Beck said. "I think more people relate to her. We never saw the frailties of Kennedy."

But where the princess' demise has sprung recollections of a bygone era, it has also fastened minds more deeply to the issues of our own age. In particular, the public is evaluating the role media plays in documenting events and creating cultural legend.

"If Diana were not so beautiful, her death might not be so tragic, so widely covered by the media," Ribelin said. "She was an outstanding woman, but the press has made the event more memorable than it might have otherwise been. People feed off media and media feeds off what people want."

"But it would be pretty irresponsible if media wasn't there," injected Ravenna resident Bonnie Prusak. "They have to respond to want the public wants. How could they not cover this as they have?"

Other residents differ.

"We've had four days of this crap," said Ravenna resident Joe Mendiola, another patron at the restaurant. "I don't mean to belittle her accomplishments, but she pales in comparison to Mother Teresa _ she was down in the trenches. Why doesn't the media give more attention to Mother Teresa?"

In answer to his own question, Mendiola echoed Ribelin's thoughts concerning Diana's beauty. "Because she (Mother Teresa) isn't as glamorous as Princess Diana, that's why!"

"Lady Di was a victim of hard, insensitive royalty," said Kent resident Rogers Slease. "She was chosen only to give Charles (Prince of Wales) sons. Had she given him two daughters, they wouldn't have been together as long as they had been. She was mistreated."

"But she recovered from that and became a good person, though not as recognized for good and holy works as Mother Theresa," he added.

Diana's death has prompted not only a wrangling to understand our era, but also a quest for more cosmic meaning. Beck's daughter called her long distance this week, her mind heavy with the awareness that children loose their parents _ an awareness spurred by the death of the princess, who left two sons behind.

"I'm glad your there," she told her mother.

"Its one more affirmation of the importance of our relationship," Beck said. "I hope this affirmation will be woven into things to temper and understand the ugliness of this needless death."

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