Anything the boys could do, Dianna L. Lawrence could always do better -- or at least as well. Tough, determined, unflinching, she'd take them on in football, basketball and hockey. Later, she thought it not at all unusual to become a welder.
"And that was 22 years ago, when there weren't all that many women welders," said her son, Steven Lawrence. "She was always very proud of that, to be a woman making strides for other women in places where they weren't expected to go."
Mrs. Lawrence died Tuesday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center of inflammatory breast cancer, seven months after being diagnosed with the disease on her 19th wedding anniversary. The Essex resident was 39.
From her upbringing in Oliver Beach, the daughter of a steel worker had forged her way to a position as a project manager for the U.S. Filter Co. in Timonium with little more than a high school diploma and will.
A standout athlete at Perry Hall High School -- where she qualified for the Junior Olympics in softball, only to miss her chance because of an ankle injury -- the former Dianna Bartlett graduated in 1977 and went to work as a glazer and welder for the company.
Three years later, she married a plant co-worker, Gary Lawrence, whom she had met in a night shift carpool. By 1986, the couple had two children.
But home life did not slow her down.
At the wheel of her beloved Camaro Super Sport, she continued to tool into the company lot each day, where she rose over the years through the purchasing department and inventory control unit to become one of the few women project managers.
"She even got a forklift operator's license, just to be able to say she had one," said her son. "There's hardly a job there that she didn't do at one time or another."
Mrs. Lawrence satisfied her artistic streak by designing and making Christmas decorations, party invitations and greeting cards. In recent years, she took classes at the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus in hopes of one day becoming an executive at U.S. Filter.
"Totally unselfish, that's what she was," said her husband. "She put everybody else in her life first -- her family, her friends -- and asked for little in return."
Services will be held at noon today at the Duda-Ruck Funeral Home, 7922 Wise Ave., Dundalk.
In addition to her husband and son, Mrs. Lawrence is survived by her daughter, Helen A. Lawrence of Essex; her mother, Audra W. Bartlett of Essex; her sister, Deborah K. O'Leary of Baltimore; and a brother, L. James Bartlett of Texas.