Doris Diether, Washington Square Park Regular, Neighbor, Activist, Rest in Peace

Doris Diether and Paul the Bird Man at the park

Long-time Community Board 2 member and Washington Square Park regular Doris Diether died at home on September 16th. Diether was well known to Washington Square Park regulars as she was one herself, living caddy-corner to the Northwestern end of the park from her apartment on Waverly Place for 63 years. She was 92 years old.

Tequila Minsky wrote a lovely tribute to her at amNY, A Life Well Lived – Doris Diether. An excerpt about her relationship to the park:

Doris’ routines for years were daily strolls around Washington Square Park. She toted and later her walker was packed with a bag of peanuts for the squirrels and pigeons, many that she named and became her outdoor pets.

In 2013 Doris showed up with envelope in hand seeking out a marionettist she read about in this paper—she herself had written about puppets years before. Thus, began a friendship between Doris and Ricky Syers who had just begun busking in the park with his marionettes, fashioned from people he knew.

It wasn’t long after they met that there was a “Little Doris” marionette, attired in a flowered blouse and blue skirt, carrying a cane—a true mini-Doris. Soon Ricky created a “Larry, the pigeon man” marionette— both becoming part of the WSP puppet family.

After Doris made her routine walk through the park she’d join the actual Larry, and a cadre of others to hang out on the southern side of Holly Plaza as Ricky was busking.

Between Ricky’s notoriety in press, NYC travel books, and the AARP-produced video “An Unconventional Friendship” that profiles Doris and Ricky, tourists showed up by droves in the park seeking Doris.

Later, Brandon Stanton included a photo of Ricky, Doris and ‘Little Doris’ in his 2015 edition of Humans of New York. Doris and Ricky attended the Union Square Barnes and Noble book launch that year where Doris signed books and beamed in the spotlight.

Doris in the background as children and adults gathered around the pigeons

Current Community Board 2 Chair Jeannine Kiely noted, “Doris gave it her all; she didn’t live her life on ‘slow mode’. She loved New York and took advantage of what it had to offer. And (especially) she loved the spectacle of Washington Square Park.”

Photos: Cathryn

Related: A Life Well Lived – Doris Diether via amNY

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2 thoughts on “Doris Diether, Washington Square Park Regular, Neighbor, Activist, Rest in Peace”

  1. I’ve only ever seen Doris once at WSP, but that one time was so memorable that I recognized her immediately when I saw this article. Rest in peace, Doris.


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