Pastor Diane Dunne always put the needs of others ahead of her own, dedicating her life to making a difference to strangers.
Dunne began the Hope for the Future Ministries in Farmingdale in 1987 and became an ordained pastor in 1994. She preached across the world, including a communist male prison in Russia and an underground church in China, according to her friend the Rev. Deborah Mitchell.
After a career in sales management, Dunne felt a pull toward serving those less fortunate.
"She would leave her sales management job in pearls and high heels, change in a gas station bathroom, put on sneakers and jeans and go and clean construction sites so she could raise the money to buy food for the homeless," said Mitchell, who also works at Hope for the Future Ministries.
Dunne died in her sleep on Oct. 30 in her Massapequa Park home, Mitchell said. She was 66.
Dunne was in TriBeCa the day after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks serving hot food to the needy. Driven by selflessness, she would often spend nights sleeping on a friend’s couch or in her office building rather than spending money on herself.
"She never stopped working," said Drew Block, a volunteer at the Hope for the Future Ministries. "I’m a 44-year-old man now and she ran circles around me. She was 20 years older than me, and I would struggle to keep up with her. I consider myself to have a lot of energy and put a lot of work into things, but there were days I couldn’t keep up with her."
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dunne did everything she could to give back to others. Dismissing concerns about being out in public during the pandemic, she wanted to help.
"COVID or non-COVID," Mitchell said, "she would say, ‘People gotta eat … That was her mantra. Whether it was snowing or raining and people were asking if she was going out, she would say, ‘People gotta eat.’"
But Dunne wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself or others. She opened her first Christian bookstore in the early 1980s. There were times Dunne would find patrons stealing from her store and rather than calling the police, Mitchell said Dunne would chase the person down the street and try to talk to them about why they felt they needed to steal.
"She would do anything for you," Block said. "I saw her do things for other people when she needed to do something for herself, but she would do something for someone else instead."
Dunne was born July 11, 1954, in Brooklyn. She moved around the New York City area until settling on Long Island. Her personal hobbies included photography, Bible studies and animals. She lived with several dogs she had rescued.
She worked hand-in-hand with the homeless every day and received Woman of the Year for excellence in service from Women of Substance Ministries and a proclamation for service at Ground Zero from New York City Council.
Mitchell would often find herself in awe of what Dunne did on a daily basis.
"She could eat and work three men under the table," Mitchell said. "The energizer bunny had nothing on Pastor Diane Dunne. She couldn’t sit still and now I know why. She worked until the final day of her life."
In addition to her trusted friend Mitchell, Dunne is survived by her mother, Hilda, her sister, Denise, and her brother, Kenneth. She is predeceased by her father, Robert. She was buried at Melville Cemetery Nov. 10 after a ceremony at Bay Shore Assembly of God Church.
On Nov. 21, Hope for the Future Ministries held a memorial service for Dunne at Tompkins Square Park, and also handed out Thanksgiving baskets in her honor that day, Mitchell said.