Diana Johnson, long-time manager of Fairway Foods, passed away in hospice care Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in the loving arms of her husband Mark, and daughter Stephanie at age 64. She died only one week after after receiving the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Diana was born to Betty and James Ziemkowski in Phoenix, Arizona, and grew up with two brothers and two sisters living at different times in Cornville, Sedona and Cottonwood, Arizona.
Diana met her future husband Mark, at Northern Arizona University, and they were married in April 1981. Diana’s father, James Ziemkowski, owned several grocery stores in Arizona and was contacted by Bob Cornet, owner of Cornet variety stores, about a grocery store that had gone out of business next to one of his Cornet stores in Idyllwild. Diana and her new husband loved the mountains, and knowing this, Diana’s father thought this might be a good opportunity for Fairway and the young couple because he was told this store was located in the mountains.
So they took a drive out from Arizona to check out this store in a town called Idyllwild. The drive up from Palm Desert was a little disappointing at first because although it was mountainous, it seemed more like the desert. But when they started going through Garner Valley, things started looking more like the mountains they had pictured.
Soon, Diana’s father pulled into the parking lot, telling everyone, “We’ve arrived.” Getting out of the car, Diana and her husband were disappointed. The store seemed much smaller than they had pictured and there was nothing else around it. Diana’s dad then started laughing. He had stopped at Lake Hemet Market as a joke.
As soon as the car rounded the corner by Bluebird Lodge, Diana and her husband fell in love with the town of Idyllwild. In February 1982, Jim Ziemkowski bought the former Hillcrest Market, and Diana and her husband moved to Idyllwild and started getting the store ready for business.
On March 18, 1982, Fairway Foods opened for the first time to a huge snowstorm with the Strawberry Creek Center parking lot inaccessible to most cars. For six days a week, over the next 36 years, Diana was an ever-present, hard-working fixture at Fairway Foods, running the store until her retirement in June 2018. Her smiling face, kind manner and nonjudgmental demeanor became a familiar constant for her employees and Idyllwild locals over the course of those three-and-a-half decades.
Diana was known for her quirky earrings of which she had a pair for just about any occasion or odd holiday. You could also count on seeing her wearing a festive head bopper headband during all the holidays.
Diana’s favorite thing in life was spending time with her family and, especially, her two grandchildren. After she retired, Diana spent a lot of time at her daughter Stephanie’s house, happily being a full-time grandmother.
Diana is survived by her husband Mark of 42 years, her daughter Stephanie Spellman, son-in-law Scot Spellman, and her two grandchildren Emily and Tyler. Diana also is survived by her sister Deborah A.Z. McElwee, sister Donna Palmer and brother RJ Ziemkowski.
Diana is preceded in death by her parents, her brother Randy Ziemkowski and her second-born daughter Julie, who died just a few hours after birth on Mother’s Day 1985.
Di’s family is touched, and grateful for the outpouring of love and remembrance they have received on Diana’s behalf since her sudden death.
In lieu of flowers or donations, Diana’s wish was for people to just do an act of kindness in her memory.