Long-time Princeton resident Diane (Didi) Wormser Burke, 94, passed away peacefully at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center on Dec. 26th. While she died on one of the shortest days of the year, she was born on the longest day June 21, 1927.
Diane had lived in Princeton since 1981 with the late James E Burke, former Chairman & CEO of Johnson & Johnson, whom she married in 1981. They shared a love of travel, family and the arts. During that time, she worked as a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her well-prepared tours became so popular that she was asked to give private ones to visiting dignitaries and VIPs. She served as a long-time trustee of the Met and the Princeton Art Museum as well as on the boards of the Mercantile Library of NYC, the Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers, the Wellesley College Friends of Art, the Middle East Society of Princeton and the Russian American Cultural Foundation. Over 30 years ago, she and her late husband founded the James E and Diane W Burke Foundation which has focused on children’s health and children and the arts.
Beloved by friends and family for her kindness, compassion, artistry and love of life, Didi grew up in Larchmont with her sister Renee and parents Elsie and Felix Wormser. As a child she traveled frequently visiting all the states by age 14 as her father was a mining engineer who also served as Assistant Secretary of the Interior under President Dwight D Eisenhower.
After graduating from Wellesley College with a BA in Art History, she worked at Perls Galleries in New York City which exclusively handled the works of Alexander Calder and other modern artists. In 1951 she married ad exec Frank Schaffer and raised her three children in Greenwich, Ct where she maintained a career as a painter with her own distinct style reminiscent of Henri Rousseau for her jungle animals and later Andy Warhol for her seed packet paintings. While there, Didi and two other women opened and ran a successful art gallery called Gallery 3.
Fluent in French and Italian, Didi also had a life-long love of the opera, classical music (her favorite composer being Mozart), the works of Trollope and dachshunds. A woman of great beauty, elegance and grace, she is survived by her children and their spouses Quentin Schaffer and Erica Anderheggen of New Canaan, Ct; Darcy and John Hadjipateras of Greenwich, Ct; and Jocelyn Schaffer of Jamestown, RI as well as six grandchildren – Charlotte, Kylie and Cameron Schaffer and Peter, Costas and Sophie Hadjipateras; step grandchildren Alex and Marina Hadjipateras; and stepchildren James and Clo Burke and their children Anna and Alice Burke and Christina Menkemeller and Michael Preininger.
In lieu of flowers, a contribution can me made in her name to the places she loved - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wellesley College, or the Wildlife Conservation Network.