Brother of slain Terrace grad recalls her passion for animals

Dianna Hanson at Cat Haven.
Dianna Hanson at Cat Haven. (Courtesy of Cat Haven website.)

By Doug Petrowski

The family of former Brier resident Dianna Hanson expressed gratitude for all the public support they have felt following the death of the 24-year-old at a central California big cat preserve on Wednesday. The family released a written statement to the media on Friday; Dianna’s brother, Paul R. Hanson, spoke to

“We appreciate all the support from the Mountlake Terrace community, especially the teachers and staff of Mountlake Terrace High School,” Hanson said. “It is overwhelming.”

While Paul R. Hanson now lives in Oregon, Dianna’s mom still lives in unincorporated Snohomish County just north of Brier; Dad Paul Hanson lives in Edmonds.

The older brother of Dianna said that despite living miles apart for the past five years, he remained close to his sister through phone conversations, family get-togethers and text messaging. “Just Tuesday night I texted her and she told me about the work that she was doing and how much she was absolutely loving it,” he said.

Dianna had begun a six-month internship on Jan. 2 at Cat Haven, a 100-acre private big cat preserve in Dunlap, Calif., 45 miles west of Fresno. Following a successful internship at Cat Haven, Dianna would have been in line for an Association of Zoo & Aquarium certification, with hopes of finding employment at a zoo, Hanson said.

Hanson has taught high school biology in a Portland suburb since finishing his schooling at Western Washington University five years ago. His time in Bellingham overlapped with Dianna’s undergraduate studies there; “we crossed paths for two years while I was in the graduate program,” he explained. He recalled showing his sister around the college town, pointing out fun places to go and restaurants she should try. Dianna graduated from WWU in 2011.

Before college, both Paul R. and Dianna attended Mountlake Terrace High School, Paul R. a member of the class of 2001, Dianna in the class of 2007.

MTHS Principal Greg Schwab remembered Dianna’s time at the school, saying, “She was a really outstanding young woman. Great student who was active in our school both as a student leader and as a student-athlete—swimmer, cross country, track.”

The Hanson family statement following Dianna’s death:

As a family we cannot begin to express how moved and touched we have been by the outpouring of support and condolences. We are truly going to miss our beloved Dianna and life for us will never be the same. Dianna was an amazing young woman whose passion for life and her work will forever be remembered in our hearts and all of those who remember her. Anyone who encountered Dianna will no doubt remember their experience with her; her enthusiasm for life; and the passion she had for her life’s work. Dianna was one of the few people who can say they lived their dream and their work was meaningful. All too often our childhood dreams give way to settling for something comfortable, but leave us with that lingering feeling, “If only I had…” Dianna however, is one of the few that at the young and vibrant age of 24 can say she lived without any doubt or questions about the direction and path of her life. She was a woman who shared her life’s passion with everyone around her.

In her passing we are humbled. There are so many people interested in hearing the story of our Di. We know in our hearts she has no regrets and would even be upset to hear that lion Cous Cous’ was shot. She would also want continued support of Cat Haven’s mission for the preservation and conservation of wild cats in their natural habitat. Dianna would not want us to be angry at the animals but rather remember the beauty and power these animals possess. She had a great respect for the power of these cats and was well aware of the risks. Yet, despite the risk involved Dianna steadfastly belied in the work she was doing and the importance of raising awareness of the threats facing these animals. Dianna truly believed that educating the public about these magnificent cats would help conserve the few remaining natural habitats they have.

We truly hope people will be moved by Dianna’s brief but impactful life. If you wish to honor Dianna’s memory please support some of her favorite organizations that have been a major part of her life: Project Survival’s Cat Haven; Snow Leopard Trust; Soysambu Conservancy; AKRE Tiger Sanctuary; Tembo Trading Company; and Seattle PAWS animal shelter.
Thank you for your gracious support and condolences,

The Family of Dianna Hanson

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