TUSCALOOSA – Faith, family and service are all important to Dianne Bentley, who has embraced her role as First Lady of Alabama and uses her platform to make a difference in the lives of the people of her state and especially of those in her hometown of Tuscaloosa.
“If someone had told me that one day I would be first lady, I would have laughed,” Bentley said.
Bentley attended Lanier High School, just a block away from the Governor’s Mansion where she now resides. While attending the University of Alabama, Bentley was introduced to her now-husband, Robert. They were married in July 1965, changing her role from a bacteriologist to a wife and, eventually, a mother.
However, she was not prepared for taking on a newer and greater role as first lady of Alabama when her husband announced and then won the gubernatorial candidacy.
“Even after the election, it took time to settle in my new role, and I try to view it as an opportunity each day,” Bentley said.
While Bentley has had to adjust to life in her role as first lady and the many changes it has brought, she tries to live as normal of a life as possible. Normal, however, is not a word that those working with and around her would use to describe her.
“Mrs. Bentley is a fine first lady to work with,” said Taylor Vice, director of constituent affairs. “She has a servant’s heart, which has fallen down upon not only those that work with her and know her, but people across the state. Caring, compassion and her faith are just a few of her wonderful attributes.”
Bentley’s attributes have served her well in her role as first lady, providing an example to the people in the state about how they should respond to others and their needs, especially after the disaster of the tornadoes in April of 2011.
Bentley watched helplessly as her hometown of Tuscaloosa was ripped apart and devastated by the tornadoes. She was frantic when she was unable to contact her family to make sure they were safe, a sentiment shared by many others at the time.
To combat communication problems faced after the tornado, the first lady is partnering with the Safe America program to raise awareness of what happened, to inform people on how they will be able to best communicate with loved ones, and to develop preparedness plans for future emergency situations that may arise.
The tornado was not Bentley’s only shining moment of service. As a member of a quilting guild in Tuscaloosa, Bentley and fellow members were able to turn their hobby of quilting into a way to serve others. After reading an article about “ugly quilts,” quilts made of the leftover strips of fabric that no one wanted to use, the members of the guild were inspired to make their own “ugly quilts” and distributed them to the homeless of Tuscaloosa.
After she and her husband serve their term in office and return to Tuscaloosa, Bentley plans to not only resume her role as a wife, mother and grandmother, but to also return to teaching Sunday school at her church, facilitating a Bible study and working with her quilter’s guild.
“My guild is always working on a service project,” Bentley said, “so although I will not be First Lady, I hope to still be making a difference in the community. My goal is to be remembered for my faith and commitment to God.”