Diane Kay Pile, of Rockville, Maryland, a longtime social worker known for her commitment and unwavering dedication to her clients, died Nov. 12 after a long struggle with cancer.
Ms. Pile, 68, spent more than four decades in the vitally important and underpaid profession of social work. Known for her extraordinary kindness and good sense of humor, she spent her career making lives better for those who needed help: adolescents with severe emotional disturbances; seniors with disabilities; and people of all ages with serious mental illness.
“She was wonderful,” said Cari Guthrie Cho, CEO of Cornerstone Montgomery, a Maryland behavioral health provider, where Ms. Pile was working up until surgery for advanced tongue cancer last December. “She loved the clients and just wanted to help them.”
Ms. Cho, who said she had met Ms. Pile years earlier when both were working as therapists for different agencies, said Ms. Pile was a highly valued staff member at Cornerstone.
“We hoped that she would come back” when she recovered, she added.
Ms. Pile graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in social work and psychology, and then graduated from Florida State University in Tallahassee in 1976 with a master’s in social work (MSW).
Following graduate school, Ms. Pile worked as a social worker for eight years in Baltimore at a residential program for adolescent boys with mental illness and other problems.
From 1982 to 1991, Ms. Pile worked with teenagers at the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents (RICA) in Rockville. She provided therapy to the teenagers and worked to connect them to additional services, while coordinating care with family members.
“She was a leader of the social workers in a sense,” recalled Diana Jamieson, a former RICA co-worker, who said Ms. Pile was active in a legal fight to win higher pay for social workers. The effort was partially successful.
“She was really an advocate for the profession of social work -- as well as an advocate for her clients,” Ms. Jamieson added. “She was incredibly effective.”
Ms. Pile left RICA to serve for 13 years as director of PLAN of Maryland-D.C. Inc. Known also as Planned Lifetime Assistance Network, the nonprofit helps family members of those with mental illness find critical services for their loved ones.
It was not unusual for Ms. Pile, who had her own caseload, in addition to the responsibility as the organization’s director, to work unpaid hours for her clients.
“She was an absolute savior for our family,’’ recalled one woman whose mentally ill brother received extraordinary care from Ms. Pile. “We are forever indebted to her.”
During her career, Ms. Pile also worked as a therapist for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), primarily working with children with mental illness.
In addition to her skill and compassion as a therapist and social worker, Ms. Pile was a talented singer who learned to read music at a young age from her mother, Verna Pile, a high school teacher. During her college years and throughout her career, Ms. Pile enjoyed singing alto in choral groups including, the Heinz Chapel Choir (University of Pittsburgh), the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, the Cantate Chamber Singers, and the Thomas Circle Singers.
Wenola Wade, a close friend and former colleague, said she had taken road trips with Ms. Pile and other friends to Bethany Beach, Delaware.
“She had a terrific sense of humor,” said Ms. Wade. “It was fun to joke around with her.”
Ms. Pile adored her dog, Max, a Maltese. She enjoyed watching college basketball, as well as professional sports, and was an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Ms. Pile was first diagnosed with tongue cancer in 1998. The cancer returned in 2014, and again in late 2019. In her third bout with the disease, Ms. Pile endured complicated surgery, followed by weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. She had just learned in October that the cancer had come back. She immediately began immunotherapy treatment. She was hospitalized Oct. 25 after becoming weak and dehydrated.
Ms. Pile spent her last two weeks in Suburban Hospital and a nearby rehabilitation facility in Rockville. She tested positive for COVID-19 two days before her death.
Ms. Pile was born in Somerset, Pa., and spent her early childhood in New Paris, Pa. When she was 11 years old, her family moved to Greencastle, Pa, and she was a 1970 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School. She was predeceased by her parents, Cletus E. and Verna I. Pile and her brother, Alan L. Pile. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Jean A. Pile, nephews, Ryan (Catherine) Pile and Shane Pile, great-nephew Andrew Pile, and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
Memorial contributions may be given to the American Cancer Society or Friedens Lutheran Church, 131 S. Main St., Friedens, PA 15541. Arrangements entrusted to Deaner Funeral Home, Stoystown, PA. Condolences may be offered at DeanerFuneralsAndCremations.com
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Diane Kay Pile, please visit our floral store.