ATHENS, Ga. — Emilye Dianne Belch, 69, of Athens, Georgia, departed this life on Sunday, February 14, 2021, as she lived it — on her own terms. Born on November 25, 1951, to Eleanor Marie Bridges at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia, she was adopted at the age of six months by Edwin Maxwell Belch and Ola Mae Pope Belch of Waycross. Four years later, her beloved brother, Edwin Dewayne Belch, joined the family. Just prior to her death, Ms.Belch told friends how happy she was Eddie was coming to visit for the weekend. Ms.Belch was a passionate advocate for the more humane treatment of all animals. That love may have started in 4-H, an experience in which she participated from fifth through 12th grades, including serving as a district officer in 1968. Through 4-H she acquired a beloved porcine, Clover. As a proud PETA member — her car’s license plate made that clear — she contributed much time, money, and energy to local and national animal rights causes and continues to do so through her bequests. Outspoken and opinionated, Ms.Belch’s greatest love was animals — ALL animals. In addition to serving as treasurer and chair of the Athens Area Humane Society during the 1980s, she also took emergency calls from police to pick up injured animals. If you wish to honor her, please donate to AthensPets, Sweet Olive Farm, Colbert Animal Rescue, or Campus Cats/Cat Zip in her memory. In addition to her lifelong commitment to the care of animals, Ms.Belch also was active in organizations focused on benefitting two-legged animals. For many years, she was a member of the Classic City Pilot Club, including serving as president in 1989. The mission of Pilot International is to influence positive change in communities throughout the world. A graduate of Ware County High School, Ms.Belch earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Georgia in 1973 having completed requirements for majors in both public relations and sociology. Her first job after graduation was as a press representative for the Georgia Peanut Commission in Tifton. Ms.Belch joined the UGA extension service in 1976 as a publications editor. In 2005, she retired from UGA after serving in several positions including nine years as both editor and advertising director of the alumni magazine and a tabloid alumni newspaper. Countless students passed under Ms.Belch’s tutelage, carrying with them her lessons of efficiency, timeliness, and attention to detail. They found in her a teacher, a friend, and a great — albeit unconventional — role model. She had a beautiful singing voice and on telephone calls, she was both kind and professional. But she did not suffer fools gladly and those calls often ended with her slamming the phone receiver down and muttering, “Idiot!” to the delight of anyone within hearing range. Ms.Belch loved television police dramas and crime novels and was fascinated by serial killers long before the subject was popularized by advances in technology. This led to her decision to donate her body to the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center, “The Body Farm,” a leading institution for research on human decomposition for use in questions of medicolegal significance. After forensic studies conclude, her body will be used by the UT College of Medicine. No summation of Ms.Belch’s life would be complete without mentioning that she married her sweetheart and they lived happily until they did not. Among the many things Dianne didn’t tolerate, disloyalty in any form was high on the list. In addition to her brother, Eddie, Dianne is survived by her longtime feline companion, MommaCat; several aunts and uncles; and numerous cousins. But none of this tells you how funny Ms.Belch was, never more so than when taking up university bureaucracy or life’s foibles. Telephone conversations began with a hearty “Hey Hon!” A natural story-teller, she loved to spin a yarn to a rapt audience, punctuated with “that just burns me to a cinder,” or, “that ain’t no way to run a railroad.” Ms.Belch did not die of a COVID-related illness, but she was concerned about the virus. She would be pissed that her friends can’t gather and tell stories and toast her memory. Wear a damn mask. Yes, over your nose, too. She was strong-willed, opinionated, unbowed, a force to be reckoned with, and had a heart of gold. When you think of her, think of this quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”