By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
She never visited the Toledo area, but Princess Diana was a beloved figure around the world. Ohio and Michigan were no exceptions.
“She was beautiful. She did so much for charity. She was a good mother. She was just a great lady,” Madeline Kuhnke, of LaSalle, Mich, said. “I admired her so much.”
At the otherwise joyous RiverFest downtown yesterday, area residents remembered the late princess as a paragon of grace, kindness, and strength.
“She always put people who weren’t able to speak up for themselves first and gave them a voice,” said Medical College of Ohio student Robert Debski, pointing out Diana’s crusades for children and against the use of crippling land mines.
Many were struck hard by the initial press reports, and some refused to believe the beautiful, young princess could really be dead.
“I felt terrible when I heard the news,” said Cindy DeYoung, who was visiting RiverFest from Lambertville with her daughters. “I had actual chills from head to toe.”
The most pressing concern for most was the future of Diana’s two sons, one of whom is in direct line to inherit control of the centuries-old British monarchy.
“I feel awful. She’ll never be able to see her children inherit the throne,” Theresa Jelks of Toledo said.
“That’s the saddest part of all this,” her husband Charles agreed. “The children need their mother. The mother is the foundation of the family.”
Most people interviewed reacted angrily at reports that photographers chasing Diana’s car might have been partially responsible for the accident.
“I was appalled that a picture means so much to these people,” RiverFest volunteer Linda Tracy said. “What’s wrong with this world? Yes, she’s a celebrity and, yes, she’s famous, but she is entitled to have a life of her own.”
“The paparazzi ought to be arrested and locked away for a long time,” said Mary Freimark of Toledo. “There’s a difference between getting a story and stalking. That’s not right.”
But Mr. Jelks said responsibility for the accident must rest with the chauffeur who, according to reports, was driving at more than 60 mph.
“I can’t rightly blame it on the photographers. There’s blame to go around for all parties,” he said. “That speed is a lot of running to get away from a camera.”
But it is clear many Toledo residents saw the princess’s life as an ideal others should try to achieve.
“For women in the world, she set a wonderful example,” Mrs. Jelks said.