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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.

Rita Elise Plourde
Rita Elise (Ploude) Plourde passed peacefully on Saturday, January 16, 2010. She was born on September 17, 1938, at her family home (82 Wellington Street, Fall River, Massachusetts). She was baptized September 18, 1938 at St. Mathieu's Church as Rita Marie Elise Ploude. However her birth was not recorded with the City of Fall River until August 1946. Her name was then recorded as Marie Rita Elise Plourde. In 1946, her birth registration documents were one of many such neglected papers found in Dr. William Boudreau's desk. As a General Practitioner and in the manner of the time, he made house calls and delivered most babies at their homes.
[As another example of this, Rita witnessed the tonsillectomy of her cousins, Pauline & Jeanne Lamothe. The surgery was performed on their kitchen table. Rita was 7-9 years old at the time and was at the home to assist her maternal aunt, Cora, during the surgery and the recuperation of the patients.]
Rita Elise Plourde
 As a result of genealogical research, Rita Elise Ploude reclaimed the correct spelling of her surname – PLOURDE – in 1992.
 Rita is the original researcher for her family’s ROCHEFORT, PELLETIER, PLOURDE, LAFOND, and HOULE family histories and genealogy, as well as that of her first husband, LAFRENIERE. She also contributed to the LAVOIE genealogy. Beginning in 1983, she is also responsible for extensive on-site personal interviews and archival research regarding these families.
 Rita became interested in genealogical research after having been given an error-ridden and poorly documented ROCHEFORT genealogy. She traveled many times to the various National Archives sites in the province of Quebec, in order to read from microfiche and microfilm, oftentimes reading the original documents in the original language. Rita conducted countless interviews, some of which have been taped, and examined the family records and photos, plus vital statistics at municipal and state registries. She visited cemeteries, took photos of grave markers, interviewed officials, clergy, historians, and other genealogists. She also enjoyed countless visits with near and distant relatives, traveled throughout the lands of her ancestors and secured much information regarding the socio-economic, cultural and historical conditions that so greatly affected the lives of those ancestors. Research was also conducted at the American-French Genealogical Society's library in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
 Rita completed her studies at St. Mathieu's parochial school at the head of the 1952 8th grade class, with a GPA of 97. A competitive full tuition scholarship enabled her to attend and graduate from Fall River's Jesus Mary Academy in 1956 with a 93 GPA. Rita was very active in school events, debate, journalism, the National Honor Society, dramatics, chorale, and served as Class President from her sophomore through senior years. She accumulated many honors and prizes as a student. While in high school, she was employed at the Terminal Bakery in the center of her natal city. Also, Rita taught Religious Education to public school children from 1952 through 1956 at St. Roch's parish in Fall River. Later she did the same at the Catholic Church in Edmeston, New York, where she and her children were active members.
 Her academic learning was not completed until earning a Bachelor's Degree from Eastern Washington University, at Cheney, Washington in 1986. She graduated Summa Cum Laude (Highest Honors) with three majors - Anthropology, French & Women's Studies. She was inducted as a member of the elite national honor society, Phi Kappa Phi. Amongst more than 2,700 graduates, she was awarded the prestigious Wilson Medal “for academic achievement, community involvement and for best personifying the Spirit of Learning & Leadership”. During the three years it took her to complete the four-year degree, Rita worked as a private law librarian and legal researcher for a firm of 50 attorneys, with a support staff of 150. During this time, she also delivered Meals-on-Wheels, was a political activist, and maintained her involvement in her family and community, while travelling at every opportunity.
 Rita was married in 1956 to Norman Lafreniere. Her four children, Michael, Denise, Diane & Renee were born from 1957 through 1961 in Meriden, Connecticut. Rita & Norman separated in 1963 and divorced in 1969. Norman died in 1971. Rita then married James Mariani in East Springfield, New York in 1974. A Church annulment was granted to her in 1975. She then married Charles (Chuck) Vennen in 1977 at the Farmers' Museum Church in Cooperstown, New York. They separated in 1995 and were divorced in April 1997. No children were born in the latter marriages. [NOTE: In 1964, Rita did bear a fifth child, and named him Mark. At the time of his birth, Mark was given up for adoption to another family through a closed adoption process that was standard at the time. Many years later, Rita would conduct a search for him, a search that went on for many years. Mark was found in 2007, 43 years after his birth, and warmly reunited with his biological mother and siblings. Rita later said it was the happiest day of her life and that having found him, she could finally die at peace.]
 Rita was the member of several PTA groups, served as officer in two such parent-teacher organizations, was a member of the American Legion Auxiliary from 1967, and was an officer for several years of membership in the Franco-American Club in Meriden, Connecticut. She traveled through all the contiguous United States, plus Alaska and Hawaii. She also motored through all the Canadian Provinces from British Columbia to the Eastern Provinces, on to the Atlantic Provinces and Nova Scotia on several occasions. Regrettably, she did not travel in Newfoundland, Labrador, or Prince Edward Island Provinces. She traveled alone on most of her trips. In addition, Rita journeyed to England and visited London, Plymouth, Tintagel, and explored the southwest area of England, called Cornwall, with friends. She also made two solo trips to the South Pacific countries of Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. Rita spent a brief time in Singapore and went to the world renowned Raffles Hotel there.
 While in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, she conducted anthropological field research in cultural ethnography, including the menstrual, birthing and menopausal practices of women in primitive cultures. She subsequently presented papers at the UC Berkeley, California & Central Washington University at Ellensburg, Washington. It was her intent to submit her research and materials to the archives of the East West Center of the University of Hawaii and the National Museum of the Solomon Islands. Due to health considerations, the preparation of her papers was as yet not completed at the time of her death. Rita was employed as the research librarian for the Melanesian Institute at Goroka in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea in 1989.
 While a resident and homeowner in Spokane, Washington, Rita was active in historic preservation, a reading/discussion group, revision of the City's zoning code, a very active participant in the Neighborhood Councils, where she served as Coordinator for her neighborhood (Cannon's Addition) and liaison between the various government entities and the neighborhood residents.
 Rita retired in 1992 due to disability and several chronic illnesses. At Death's door, she organized a Celebration of Life which was held in Spokane in March 1995. Death looked away. She was left with chronic disabling conditions. By January 1998 after a three-year hiatus, she was able to resume driving and her travels. Following her 1997 divorce, she moved to Tacoma, Washington where she lived until her death in 2010.
 As a resident of Tacoma, Rita was a very active volunteer at Pierce Transit, where she served as a member of the Pierce Transit Advisory Committee (revising its bylaws in 1998), the Eligibility/Communications and Operations Committees and long-served as a member of the Eligibility Appeals Panel. She was also appointed to the Mayor's Task Force on Disabilities. In 1999 she revised the Articles of Organization and by-laws for the Task Force. Rita advocated for the interest of the disabled regarding transportation and accessibility issues before federal, state and municipal bodies. She wrote numerous letters-to the-editor and contributed to publications addressing those issues. One such publication was the internationally circulated SARCOIDOSIS NETWORK NEWSLETTER. The publication is circulated amongst clinicians, researchers in sarcoidosis, patients, caregivers and providers. Rita served as copy editor, transcribed conference presentations for distribution, and edited submitted items. She also served as the group's librarian and as part-time office staff.
 Following a short stay at Hospice House of Tacoma in the late fall of 2009, Rita left to spend her final days in Port Angeles, Washington at the home of her daughter Diane Harrison. She passed peacefully on Saturday, January 16, 2010, with members of her family at her side, including son Michael, daughter Diane and her husband John, and her niece Nicole. She was cremated and per her request, was accompanied by a copy of her favorite book, "Mutant Message Down Under" and a Native American offering of sage and the hair of a grizzly bear. Her family planned to spread her ashes in her ancestral homeland of Kamouraska, Quebec.

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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