Paula Diesel Farina, 70, of Annapolis, MD, mother, daughter, sister, teacher, and friend, unexpectedly went home to God on October 21st, 2023, surrounded by her family. Paula was hospitalized for a previously undiagnosed heart condition and was beset by a host of hospital-related complications from which she was expected to heal. For nearly three months, she fought a spirited battle to return to her beautiful life, leaving a lasting impact of kindness and fortitude on the ICU workers who cared for her.
Born to Mary Diesel, née Cully, and the late Edward Diesel of Hartford Connecticut on October 31, 1952, Paula married in 1979 and moved to Laurel, Maryland in 1986. She taught music for over 30 years at First Baptist School of Laurel and then St. Pius X Regional School of Bowie, MD, where her infectious joy and faith inspired thousands of children. Never one to be bored, she also taught piano and guitar lessons, copy edited and indexed books, had a stint as a travel agent, and even moonlighted as an usher for the Baltimore Orioles in the early 90s, fostering a family love of baseball.
After raising her three children, she earned her Masters degree in English and Education from Notre Dame of Maryland University. In 2018, the Archdiocese of Washington awarded her their esteemed Golden Apple award for excellence in teaching.
Music and family were Paula’s guiding lights. Paula was a prodigious musical talent and accomplished classical pianist, flutist, and guitarist, as well as a prolific published composer and member of ASCAP. Her record The Lord Reigneth, released in 1978, put scripture to contemporary folk music. She wrote full musicals to the children’s classic stories The Velveteen Rabbit, Stone Soup, Platero y Yo, Hope for the Flowers, and many more, which her students performed for years. In 2009, the Baltimore Sun wrote a feature on Paula’s Song Cycle, “Life and Love,” compositions for her women’s choir, The Nightingales. In her retirement, Paula worked feverishly on her vast library of musical compositions, pieces ranging from string quartets to full orchestras to children’s choirs to folk and pop ballads. Paula planned to combine her love of travel, music, and the ocean to work on cruise ships as a singer-pianist in the coming years.
Paula’s dedication to family was legendary. Her calendar was full of birthdays, anniversaries, and reminders to do things for people she loved. She was utterly devoted to her children above all else, and she made it fun. Every aspect of life was an opportunity for creativity. You could always count on Paula for a joke, a new game she came up with, a theme party we should throw, a comedy sketch we should act out or write, an idea for a whimsical afternoon complete with costumes and props, a new business we could start. Her wellspring of ideas never ran dry. If it wasn’t a creative endeavor, it was a message of love or support. If she was thinking about you, she took the time to say it.
Though her loss is untimely, her music, creativity, whimsy, faith, humor, and kindness deeply touched the lives of all who crossed her path and will remain her lasting legacy.
Paula is survived by her children, Mary-Alice Farina and husband Anthony Guerino, Oreste Joseph “Joe” Farina and wife Stephanie Farina, and Ruth Elisabeth “Lisa” Farina; mother Mary Diesel; brother Peter Diesel and wife Vikki; her “grand sweeties” who made her heart so full: Natalie Zoe Farina, Oreste Joseph “Reese” Farina, Theodore John Farina, Lydia Jade Farina, and Jude Anthony August Guerino; and her grandpuppies Brady, Gronk and Cal. Her large extended family will also mourn her loss. Though they were no longer married, John Farina remained her loving and steadfast co-parent and champion.
In 1991, Paula fought Hodgkins Lymphoma, undergoing radiation which extended her life, but impacted her overall health and led to her undiagnosed heart condition. The family would like to urge anyone who has had radiation treatment for Hodgkins Lymphoma or breast cancer to seek out frequent and thorough heart screenings, as late-stage effects of radiation to the chest are often missed.
A wake will be held on Thursday, November 2nd from 5-7pm at Beall Funeral Home, Bowie MD. A funeral mass will be held Friday, November 3rd at 10:30am at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Bowie, MD, followed by a burial at Fairfax Memorial Park in Fairfax, VA.