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Diana Hyde (1927-2018)

Maintained links: Diana Hyde retained her love for Bermuda (Photograph supplied)

Bermudian amateur historian Diana Hyde has died at the age of 90.

Ms Hyde, the daughter of Sir Allan Chalmers Smith, a former attorney-general, and mother of environmentalist Anne Hyde, was born in Bermuda but spent much of her adult life in Gibson Island, Maryland, where she died last week.

Ms Hyde, whose ancestors settled on the island in 1628, was one of six children, and her father was one of 12.

She had two daughters, Anne and Elizabeth, and two sons, Jonathan and Stephen, who died in 2005, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Anne Hyde said last night that a memorial service would be held on October 21 at Christ Church in Warwick, the day before what would have been her mother’s 91st birthday.

The commemoration, held to allow family to organise travel plans, will follow a service on August 26 in Gibson Island.

Ms Hyde said her mother had divided her time between Maryland and Bermuda.

She added: “In 1980, she and her husband, Bryden, bought a 200-year old listed building called The Brae and made improvements to it to show off its Bermudian architectural features. The Brae is in the same neighbourhood as ‘Hilton’, where Diana was born.

“Diana was a member of the 19th Century Club, a literary club started by her paternal grandmother, Caroline Frith Smith.

“She was also a member of the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club and the Hamilton Rotary Club. She enjoyed playing bridge at the Seniors’ Learning Centre and playing croquet with friends.

Her husband wrote Bermuda Antique Furniture & Silver, which Anne said remained “the go-to reference book today”.

The book was dedicated to Caroline Frith Smith, who provided the prologue.

Ms Hyde said her mother took a keen interest in antiques, history and genealogy.

She added: “She was able to strike up an interesting conversation with anyone, any age, from any background, and often invited tourists back to her house for lunch following the church service at Christ Church, Warwick.

“She was a bit eccentric, but we loved her for her energetic and positive outlook on life.

“She was fiercely proud of her Bermudian heritage and the large Smith clan.”

The Baltimore Sun reported Ms Hyde met her future husband, a US Army infantry officer and Baltimore resident, while working at her family’s Coral Beach Club.

They married at Christ Church, Warwick, which her ancestors had founded before they moved to Gibson Island.

They were married for 53 years until Mr Hyde died in 2001.

Ms Hyde maintained links to Bermuda and volunteered at the Maryland Historical Society for many years, where she helped to write the curriculum for its guides. She also sold real estate and was active in preservation work.

She died of cancer on August 1 at her daughter Elizabeth’s home in Gibson Island.

Jonathan Hyde, also of Gibson Island, told The Baltimore Sun: “My mother was handing out towels at the club when she met my father.

“On their first date they both decided, without discussion, this was the one. He died at home, in her arms, 53 years later.”

Her friend George Johnston, of Baltimore, said: “Diana divided her time with devoted family between Bermuda, where her family had been for literally hundreds of years, and Gibson Island.

“She cared for her husband Bryden after a debilitating stroke. She had rose-coloured glasses, which suited her personality to a tee. She also had an infectious laugh and smile.”

Another friend, retired Circuit Judge John W. Sause Jr, said: “We stayed with her in Bermuda one August and she’d been up in the morning cutting bananas — then selling them.

“She had an irrepressible personality and particularly loved children. She was never happier than when she was with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Anne said her mother “loved being part of a big family that recognised first, second and sometimes even third cousins”.

The Baltimore Sun said that as a 16-year-old Mrs Hyde crossed the wartime Atlantic on a convoy and witnessed the sinking of nearby ships by German submarines.

She obtained a degree in hospitality management from the University of Exeter in England. She became a member of the Gibson Island Club and the United States Croquet Association.