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American-French Genealogical Society

In Memoriam to Our Departed American French Genealogical Society Members

The AFGS wishes to use this page as a way to recall and honor our departed members.

KNECHT DONNA GAUDREAU SHIRK KNECHT Died at her home in Fairfax, Virginia on Tuesday, September 1, 2009 from peritoneal cancer. She was 71.
Donna Mae Gaudreau was born in Kamloops, B.C., Canada on August 12, 1938, daughter of Andre Achille "Archie" Gaudreau and Audrae Marie Miller Gaudraeu.
Donna's mother enlisted in the U.S. Women's Army Corps in June 1945 and Donna remained in Canada with her grandparents on Vancouver Island until she joined her mother and new step-father Floyd Shirk in the United States some time after her mother’s discharge from the Army in March 1947 and her step-father’s discharge from the Navy in April 1947.
Her step-father joined the U.S. Air Force in December 1947. Donna was proud of her life as a "military brat" even though it meant she attended thirteen schools in her first twelve grades including her first two years of high school in Japan. The family moved to Forbes AFB, Topeka, Kansas in 1954 and her step-father was killed in an aircraft accident in February 1956.
Her mother remained in Topeka and she and Donna attended Washburn University together. Donna graduated from Washburn University in 1961 and worked for the State of Kansas in vocational rehabilitation.
Donna married Ronald J. Knecht, USAF, in Topeka July 20, 1963 and their only child, Sonja, was born in July 1964.
As a military wife, she moved to locations in Nebraska, California, Alaska, and Virginia and was a volunteer at schools, crisis hot lines and the League of Women Voters. Shortly after moving to Virginia in 1978, Donna was encouraged by her aunt Mildred Curtis, wife of Senator Carl Curtis, to volunteer at the Republican National Committee. This led to her ten year employment at the RNC.
In 1989 she left her position as Director of Information Services and Volunteer Office at the RNC to join the staff of the Office of the Vice President and spent four years as an executive assistant to Marilyn Quayle.
Following her retirement in 1993, Donna was active in genealogy and traced her French Canadian roots back to the 16th century and her mother’s line to pre-revolutionary America.
Donna traveled to the locations of her ancestors in Europe, Canada and the United States.
Donna was active in the Gautreau D' Amerique family association and translated the volume Aux Sources d' une Histoire: Les Gautraeu d' Amerique into English. She was also an active participant in the Republican Women's Federal Forum.
Donna is survived by her husband, Ronald J. Knecht, Colonel, USAF (Retired), her daughter Sonja Knecht-Hoshi, Nokesville, VA, her sisters Alison Worrall, Broad Run, Virginia, and Adrienne Araiza, Panama City Beach, Florida, and nieces, nephews, and cousins throughout Canada and the United States.
Donna's ashes were placed in Court 8 Section JJ Stack 3 Niche 5 of the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery attended by her immediate family on November 2, 2009.

If your aware of an AFGS member who has passed on and you would like to see them honored on this site please contact 
"Our Departed members"
The American-French Genealogical Society, founded in 1978, is a non-profit organization devoted to assisting people of French-Canadian ancestry in the research of their family history.   

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Updated December 21, 2009

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