Once in a while a person walks into a room with a special glow that lights up the faces of those gathered there. Joana Diamos, 84, is such a person.
Diamos is one of 20 women who have been named Las Doñas de Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucson. Doñas are women over the age of 65 who have lived in Tucson approximately 50 years, contributed distinguished service to the Tucson community outside their profession and are committed to upholding the cultural traditions of the Old Pueblo.
This year the League of Women Voters of Greater Tucson will honor the doñas at its Feb. 17 centennial luncheon, to be held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Tucson-Reid Park ballroom, 445 S. Alvernon Way. Registration is at 11:30 a.m. and lunch begins at noon.
The guest speaker will be Lisa Schnebly Heidinger, author of "Arizona: 100 Years Grand." Heidinger is the great-granddaughter of Sedona Schnebly, for whom the town of Sedona was named.
Cost of the luncheon is $75. Reservations may be made by calling 327-7652 or going to www.lwvgt.org online.
Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucson is a nonprofit cultural and educational organization founded to preserve the unique cultural experiences and language derived from the Spanish, Mexican and territorial periods. Membership is open to anyone interested in preserving the history of Tucson.
Selma Paul Marks is the soon-to-be reigning doña for 2012-13, Diamos said. "Each year, a new doña is selected through the organization's consensus."
The Spanish word doña is an honorary title of respect.
Marks has been a supporter of the University of Arizona's College of Law, where she established a series of lectures, Diamos said.
"We try to observe that each culture, race and nationality is represented," Diamos said.
Diamos, a retired attorney, helped found CODAC Behavioral Health Services Inc. and guided the founding and opening of the Southern Arizona Mental Health Center.
She cited several other examples of community service the doñas have provided:
• Cele Peterson, who died in 2010, helped found the Tucson Children's Museum (now Children's Museum Tucson) and Casa de Los Niños, which helps abused and neglected children. "She single-handedly made Tucson's birthday an annual event," Diamos said.
• "Maria Urquides, who died in 1996, developed a method of teaching English to non-English-speaking students which set a national standard," Diamos said.
• "Esther Don Tang was instrumental in funding Pima Community College. Dorothy Finley was the driving force in keeping Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. Edith Sayre Auslander is one of 15 founders of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists."
The group holds a fundraiser every year to raise money for a fund it has with the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona and awards grants to programs that promote Tucson's heritage and culture.