For love and community

For love and community

Tom and Diana Sibert — both presidents of prominent Friday Harbor service clubs — fell into the island community and volunteer work as seamlessly as they fell in love.

“Being married to Tom is really easy for me,” Diana said. “In the morning we sit and have coffee and just talk. That moment we have together before moving on to our different projects is probably my favorite time of the day.”

Coffee actually brought the couple together about 14 years ago in Los Angeles. Diana was the project manager for the Transition Planning Department for the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Tom was a doctor from South Carolina who had just moved to LA to be closer to his children. He had recently taken a job as the President of the UCLA Health System Facility Practice Group. The two ran into each other frequently, and both admit to admiring the other from afar.

“Being new to the city and single, I would ask people how they met people,” Tom said, adding with a smile that he already had his eye on one lady in particular, Diana, and that he always went out of his way to talk to her.

“I thought she was full of spirit. Bright and made the day around her bigger and better,” Tom said.

“I don’t know if I believe in love at first sight, but I do feel like there is a connection, chemistry. I got that excited tingly feeling when I saw Tom,” Diana said. “I fell in love with him pretty early on.”

One day, Tom asked Diana if she would have a cup of coffee with him. A few dates later, Tom invited Diana to his house for dinner and to meet his daughters.

“I was so nervous,” Diana said. The girls were so welcoming, she continued, that any anxiety dissipated.

Diana became attracted to Tom further that night, she said, upon witnessing the incredible relationship he had with his kids.

“Not only was he a great dad, but he was a great cook,” Diana added, noting she was a vegan then, so cooking for her was a challenge.

“I really had to do my research and find some good vegan recipes,” Tom said.

The couple had another hurdle — location. Diana was a city girl, Tom explained. He, however, was a country boy at heart.

“Anywhere with tractors and dirt Tom will be happy,” Diana said with a laugh.

So, according to Tom, he asked her if there was anywhere outside the city they could live. A picture of Orcas inspired the couple to visit the islands.

“We fell in love with San Juan Island so quickly we didn’t even make it over to Orcas,” Diana said. They bought a tiny house to live in part-time and it’s where they were married in 2009. Five years later, the couple became full-time islanders.

Full of passion and compassion, the Siberts began searching for ways to become involved in their new community. Tom discovered Rotary of the San Juans while Diana discovered Soroptimist International of Friday Harbor.

“I loved the people and the work they do,” Tom said. Thirty-six Weekends, a partnership of organizations that provide food to youth who may not have enough to eat over the weekend, is one of his favorite Rotary programs.

“I was pretty affected by the number of kids that are on assistance and don’t get anything on the weekend,” Tom said.

The Rotarian motto is “Service Above Self,” Tom said, adding that he has appreciated finding something that makes a difference both locally and globally.

“I hadn’t experienced being a part of something like that before,” he said. “We don’t acknowledge that a vast number of people want to help, give of themselves.”

Tom added that regardless of whether it is through Rotary; Lions; Kiwanis; or Soroptimist, people want to feel like they are making a difference in someone else’s lives, no matter how small.

Diana found her way into service via a different route. She was invited to attend a Soroptimist meeting by former president Sharon Pigman.

“I instantly thought this was a wonderful group of women doing great things,” Diana said.

One of Diana’s favorite Soroptimist programs is the Woman’s Emergency Fund, money set aside specifically to assist women with a specific urgent need.

The fund, she explained, is set up to help a woman going through a rough spot. Should a woman in a domestic violence situation need funds for a deposit on an apartment in order to leave the abusive relationship, the emergency fund could go toward that.

“I think that is really what life is about, helping others,” Diana said.

When Diana and Tom were both asked the same year to become president of their respective club, the couple decided to go through their presidencies hand in hand. The Siberts even hope to create a joint project between the two organizations.

“It has been interesting because we trade stories and I feel like we have learned from each other,” Tom said.

If Diana is working on a problem with Soroptimist, for example, she and Tom will talk it through. He is able to apply solutions gleaned through that discussion toward issues Rotary might be struggling with, she explained.

Communication is key in their relationship. Whenever they get caught up in their lives and lose connection, they make an effort to touch base with each other. With a decade of marriage behind them, Diana said, it is the simple things she most enjoys and that keep their bond close – reading together, gardening, cooking. One thing they always do, Tom said, is to be kind to one another. When one is down, the other attempts to bring the other up. If it’s easier for one to take the dogs out, that’s who does it.

“A lot of people say relationships are hard work. I think it’s not as hard as it is mindfulness. I try to always remember how much I love Diana,” Tom said. “We also laugh a lot. It would be terrible if we didn’t.”