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., on August 12, 1938, daughter of Andre Achille “Archie” Gaudreau and Audrae Marie Miller Gaudreau.
Donna’s mother enlisted in the U.S. Women’s Army Corps in June 1945, and Donna remained in Canada withe her grandparents on Vancouver Island until she joined her mother and new step-father, Floyd Shirk, in the United States; sometime after her mother’s discharge from the Army in March 1947, and her 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 13 schools in her first 12 grades, including 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 July 1964.
As a military wife, she moved to locations in Nebraska, California, Alaska, and Virginia. She 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 10 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 Gautreau 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 will be inurned in the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery attended by her immediate family. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to Capital Hospice or a charity of your choice.