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Anna G. Larson, Published January 28 2013

Diane 'Toot' Marthaler, October's 'Beautiful Woman,' loses battle with cancer

BRECKENRIDGE, Minn. – Diane “Toot” Marthaler, The Forum’s Beautiful Woman for the month of October, still lights up a room in spirit.

Marthaler lost her battle with cancer Sunday at age 42, and her husband, Scott Marthaler, said she was laughing until the very end.

“She never lost her sense of humor,” he said. “I think her life speaks for itself. Wherever she went, she left an impression.”

Even though Toot was on a respirator and couldn’t talk with the nurses at Sanford Health last week, they wanted to know more about her, Scott Marthaler says.

“She changed lives as she fought this cancer,” he said.

Marthaler’s Caring Bridge site has had nearly 84,000 visits from people she knew and others she didn’t.

People who signed the guestbook remark that Marthaler taught them to have more faith in God, to love more and to live life to the fullest, says Marthaler’s friend, Pam Knapper.

Knapper misses her friend’s laugh and smile most. The two women became close after Marthaler’s diagnosis. Knapper also had breast cancer and offered Marthaler support.

In Marthaler’s final months of life, Knapper says she showed fearlessness.

“She truly showed me how to not fear death and how important it is to be prepared because we do not know when or what God has in store for us,” she says. “Let go and let God, and most importantly, laugh! Life is just too darn serious sometimes!”

True to her live-life-to-the-fullest attitude and despite her terminal diagnosis, Toot, Scott and their family traveled to New York City in October for a family vacation.

“She was so strong,” Scott Marthaler said. “We made arrangements for a wheelchair, but she walked.”

The family experienced the city in a way they never imagined, he said.

They were upgraded to a suite at their hotel that overlooked Central Park on one end and Times Square on the other.

They rode a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park and gained an extra few days together when Hurricane Sandy hit.

“It was a trip of a lifetime,” Scott Marthaler said. “It was everything that we had hoped for and so much more.”

Toot was known for her humor, telling The Forum that she walked into work wearing a fake mustache and also enjoyed joking with her children by putting on jeans several sizes too small and asking “Do these jeans make me look fat?”

“She always had this mischievous twinkle in her eye – she always kept you on your toes with her wit,” Knapper says.

Marthaler’s mischievous twinkle will live on in someone else. She donated her corneas to the Lions Eye Bank, according to Knapper.

Marthaler’s fight with cancer was intense and started in 2008 when she noticed a painful lump in her breast. Doctors told her on a scale of 1 to 9, with 9 being the most aggressive type of cancer, her tumor was an 8.

After treatment and a double mastectomy, the cancer was gone but came back in 2010. In August, Marthaler was told the cancer was terminal. Doctors guessed she had two or three weeks to live.

Marthaler told The Forum last year that she planned her funeral and wants people to walk out and “be like ‘Woo hoo!’ ” Per her request, a celebration of her life will follow her funeral service Saturday.

“It’s going to be one heck of a pink celebration,” Knapper said. “I am confident that as many tears that are shed that day, there will be an equal amount of laughter from all of her friends and family and the Toot stories they will share!”

Marthaler was featured as October’s Beautiful Woman for her beauty of life.

Marthaler is survived by her husband, Scott, two children, two stepchildren and two step-grandchildren.

The viewing is from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Breckenridge High School gym.

Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Breckenridge.

Immediately following the funeral is the celebration of life, which will be held at the Breckenridge High School gym.