Tom “Diff” Diffley ’65 was the epitome of a Johnnie in many ways. He was scholarly and inquisitive. He cared about others and he made a difference in their lives. He disdained any air of superiority; he always brought others along for the ride; and he was a lot of fun to be around.
On June 29th, after battling various health challenges for many years, Diff passed away peacefully surrounded by those he loved most, his family. And while we have lost a terrific person and a consummate Johnnie, he made a large footprint while he was with us.
Diff studied English at Saint John’s and taught high school English for several years. Once, I asked him what it was like majoring in English at Saint John’s, and he replied “Oh, there were some titans in Collegeville. I don’t know how I ever lasted in those classes.” He must have sensed my incredulity at this remark so he deflected with “Hey, have you taught your boys how to hit the curveball yet?” and “What did I give last year to Saint John’s? Did it help?” Diff would rather talk about others than about himself.
As a teacher he loved his students and he made a difference in their lives. On hearing of Diff’s passing, one former student wrote, “I am saddened to hear of Mr. Diffley’s passing. He was an amazing man and his passion for teaching was one of the reasons I pursued a teaching career. He had a significant, lasting, positive effect on my life, and I am sure countless others could say the same.”
A real estate career later beckoned and Diff took to it as enthusiastically as he had teaching. Selling homes became another thing he excelled at and he became a top performer for Edina Realty. Later, he taught his son Jim ’92 the trade, and Jim has since become an excellent realtor himself.
Diff often served as emcee at various events at his home away from home, North Oaks Country Club. When John Gagliardi retired, Diff called us and asked if he could host a golf event in John’s honor, and as emcee he regaled the crowd at a fantastic dinner event. Diff didn’t even play football at Saint John’s, but he wanted to honor John in his way. Those who attended the event still recall the enthusiasm he exuded for his alma mater, not to mention the many laughs they all shared.
A family friend wrote, “Our world needed your dad and he made it a better place with everything he touched. He’s gone too soon but he left so much enthusiasm, laughter and goodness behind in us that we’ll continue to share his zest for others and passion for life.”
Truer words have rarely been spoken; and Diff will be missed by many. Godspeed, Diff. To answer your question, yes, your gifts helped, just as they had for the nearly 50 years that you made them. Rest in peace.