Diane Powell-Larché, businesswoman behind many service agencies, dies at 65

Diane Powell-Larché was a businesswoman who was also active in community enterprises from nonprofits to special events. She died earlier this month at 65.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Diane Powell-Larché was a businesswoman who was also active in community enterprises from nonprofits to special events. She died earlier this month at 65.

When Diane Powell-Larché arrived at the University of Pittsburgh in 1976, she had less than $100 in her pocket, limited scholarship funds, and no clear plan for paying for her four-year education there.

She nevertheless persisted, graduating four years later after having worked a plethora of odd jobs, scoring cheap textbooks from underground sources and dining off hot plates.

Joe Larché, loves to tell that story about how determined his wife was, whether it was for paying her way through college, building up an impressive public relations client list for the sports and entertainment publicity firm she founded, or, continuing to work while battling cancer. He and many relatives, friends and former protégés said goodbye to the entrepreneur and community activist at her funeral at Ben Hill United Methodist Church on Friday.

Powell-Larché died of pancreatic cancer on January 12. She was 65.

“She was sunshine,” Joe Larché said. “If you ever met her, man, you knew that she was something different. She was just a person who was on a mission.”

That mission led the English and Political Science double major through a variety of professional experiences, from working as a newspaper and radio reporter after college to insurance claims management with State Farm Insurance and, finally, to public relations and event planning. Powell-Larché remained a freelance writer and blogger writing about sports and travel throughout her life.

The Philadelphia native, who moved to Atlanta in the early 1980s, founded Larché Communications LLC in 1998. There, she cultivated a list of clients that included former Atlanta Hawks guard Jason Terry, actress Krysten Leigh Jones, R&B singer Jaheim, HBO, and the Urban League.

Powell-Larché also immersed herself in a broad array of civic causes, serving on nonprofit boards dedicated to journalism, sports, business, and battling lupus, which claimed the life of a sister. She was also a member of the African American public service sorority Delta Sigma Theta.

In 1998, National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) president Dorothy Height tapped Powell-Larché to head the organization’s African American Women’s Leadership Roundtable. Powell-Larché in 2016 founded the organization’s metro Atlanta chapter, the largest in the 89-year history of the NCNW.

Those who knew Powell-Larché best described her as someone who was driven but who also had a strong desire to help her community. Her “motto,” Larché told an audience upon receiving a Salute Her award in 2019, was: “If I can help somebody along the way, then my living is not in vain.”

“She was my spotter,” said Andre Gates, of the mentor he referred to as “Lady Di,” who constantly encouraged him to pursue his dreams. “She wanted the best not just for herself but for everyone around her.”

Gates, who met Larché more than two decades ago, worked with her as an onsite media contact for a wide variety of events. Among them, an annual Father’s Day food tasting celebration involving professional Atlanta chefs called Family Food Fest. The charity event raises money for boys and girls in after school programs.

When Gates would tell her about a project idea he wasn’t sure about pursuing, she would reply: “You’ve got to do it. You were meant to do it,” he recalled.

Gates was among a group of longtime friends and associates who remained in close contact with Powell-Larché after she was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in April 2023. Some took turns running errands and keeping vigil with her until the end.

Powell-Larché worked as long as she could after her diagnosis. Her last professional outing was in June, according to longtime friend Sonja Strayhand. After that, she worked from home, keeping in touch with event coordinators on projects including this year’s Family Food Fest, and eventually putting people in place to take over for her. The last event Powell-Larché worked on was the Atlanta UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball in December.

“She was working, because she was busy still doing what she had to do,” said Strayhand, who visited Powell-Larché up to five times a week. That included coming to Powell-Larché's home to prepare her room the day she arrived home from the hospital for the last time on January 11. Powell-Larché died the following day, surrounded by family members.

The weather was moderately cold with intermittent bouts of rain on that day. In the moment of her passing, Joe Larché recalled saying to himself: “‘God, I say you took sunshine on a cloudy day.’ Because that’s what she was.”