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Snapshot: Diane Wardenburg

Published: May 26, 2017

The Newtown Bee

Occupation: I am the owner and director of The Lathrop School of Dance. When Mrs Lathrop passed away [about eight years ago] she left me the school. She had opened it after her and Mack’s vaudeville days of Lathrop and Lee. Mr and Mrs Lathrop started that school with family, fun, laughs, and a love of learning dance. They were into the school about eight years when I joined. It’s been a dream come true for me, because I’ve always wanted to be a dance teacher. Growing up, my parents had said, “No, you have to go to college.” So I thought, I’ll go to Southern [Connecticut State University], because they had a lot of dance options and I could come up once a week here to teach a class. When I graduated from college, I started full-time there. When it’s in your heart, it is just there.

Family: My husband Joel and I have been married for 25 years. We have a son, Caleb, who’s 18 years old, and he’s graduating from high school. Both are very involved with the dancing school, too. When my husband asked for my hand with my parents — he did that — and he also asked Mrs Lathrop. Now Joel is our CFO, I’m the CEO, and Caleb is the CTO —chief technology officer.

Pets: We have a dog, Shebee, which was given to Caleb by Mrs Lathrop, because she wanted to give him his first dog. Mrs Lathrop got her from the North Shore Animal League, and Shebee is 12 years old now.

How long have you worked in Newtown? I’ve been in Newtown since I was 4 years old for dancing school, but I started teaching when I was 18 years old after Mrs Lathrop asked me at my senior year recital if I’d like to teach. Newtown has always been my second home, and I mean that from the bottom on my heart.

What do you like to do in your free time? My family and I are really involved in church. We have a theater group called Immanuel Lutheran Players, which we started back in the 80s with my business manager, Mary Ann. We have done everything wholesome, like The Sound of Music and Fiddler On The Roof. Our biggest claim to fame is The Last Supper, which is Leonardo da Vinci’s painting come to life.

Do you have a favorite book or author? Honest and true, I love to read Luanne Rice. It’s romance with a little bit of mystery in there.

What is your favorite travel destination? My husband and I like to travel and have backpacked in Europe. Both of us love the ocean, too. My favorite places are Sherwood Isle, because Caleb, Joel, and I always go there for Mother’s Day, and the Von Trapp Family Lodge that we go to every Thanksgiving.

What is the best part about Newtown? The community that we have. The support is phenomenal. For example, with the recital program that Mr Lathrop started, the Newtown Savings Bank has been on the back cover for 65 years. That’s huge. Also, when Miss Tamra started our dance team, she just had the senior dance team, which were the high school kids. It’s been such a success that now we have a junior dance team and a little dance team experience for second to fourth graders.

Who have been the greatest influences in your life? My parents, Mrs Lathrop, and my husband. I’m sincere about that. I couldn’t be any place without my parents, but I couldn’t image life without Mrs Lathrop, and my husband is someone who is there for me. At his events I’m his assistant, and at the dance recitals he’s always “Mr Diane.”

If you could spend the day with one person, who would you choose and why? My husband Joel. We’d go dancing at the Supper Club in New York City. He’s a great dancer.

Who is your favorite musical artist? Tony Bennett. Good for dancing, good for listening, and good words.

What is the greatest piece of advice you have ever been given? Never stop learning. I can hear Mrs Lathrop saying that, over and over.

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