Farewell, My Friend, Adieu

Nov. 1, 2012
The food industry says goodbye to one of its beloved friends.

The food industry has sadly lost one of the nicest people on earth.  In keeping with her extraordinary sense of flair, Diane Toops, my dear friend and fellow editor, passed away on Halloween evening.  She was a rare gem—kind, gracious and seriously funny—and was loved not only by her fans, readers and clients, but also by editors and writers at other magazines.

Nobody does not love our Toopsie!

Toopsie (that's what I called her) was loved by everyone for her patience, willingness to listen, sense of humor and appreciation of style. I literally tremble as I write this, for I am not sure how I will make it through the next trade show without her iconic larger-than-life personality trotting by my side and guiding me to taste and critique the trend setters and innovators in food, packaging, and technology.  We were together so much that exhibitors and people on the show floor expected to see Toopsie when they spotted the taller me.  We attended press conferences together, collected our press materials and samples, and stashed them under a "secret" table in the pressroom. 

I first got to know of Toopsie in the late 80s.  She was new at Putman, and I took it upon myself (as I often do) to write and point out something that I disagreed with in one of her very first articles.  She phoned and graciously thanked me—for my letter was her very first from a reader. From then on, she asked if I would read and check her articles before they were poured on the page and sent to the printer.  By faxes and late-night phone calls we traded science and technology explanations, insights into consumer behavior and industry trends.  I learned a lot from her and she picked up a tip or two from my world of research and development.

Though we lived in the same city, it was only in 2002, while chatting with a friend in a line at the annual IFT meeting in Anaheim, Calif. that I met her in person.  She was ahead of me in the line and recognized my voice. When she turned to introduce herself, I recognized her immediately from pictures in magazines.  It was love at first sight. 

She took me under her wing and taught me how to work the show floor.  She introduced me to the world of writing and coached me on how to convey the essence of complex technical matters succinctly and briefly. She taught me to work with different editors and educated me on what readers sought in our magazines. She helped me find relevant and the fascinating information from trades shows, so that I could tell others who couldn't attend.

Kantha Shelke is a principal at Corvus Blue LLC, a Chicago-based food science and research firm specializing in industry competitive intelligence, expert witness services, and new product/technology development and commercialization of foods and food ingredients for health and wellness.

We travelled together to many countries. She often wanted to defect or stay abroad just a little bit longer, but I managed to drag her back on the plane to Chicago. Our friendship grew on those long flights home while we shared stories and captured the important nuggets of the trip. And, if I ever traveled anywhere without her, she would ask me to write and tell her about it.  Last week, when I sat by her bed in the hospital, Toopsie told me that she was going away soon.  I asked her to send me a postcard.  She said she would e-mail me …"surely heaven is fitted with the latest in technology." 

We will all miss you Toopsie! You are forever in our hearts.

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