|January 2002||Volume 4 Number 1|
Richard C. Roberts, Unit Head, History and Genealogy
On August 6, 2001 CSL lost one of its most frequent patrons and biggest advocates when Donna Holt Siemiatkoski passed away. The following are extracts from remarks I presented at her funeral.
As a participant in several of her genealogical tours, I was amazed at how Donna went out of her way to introduce the participants to one another. She made each person feel welcome and special; she tried to give each participant personal assistance during the day. By the end of each tour, she had woven all the participants into a unique group and had made them part of her extended circle of friends. And at conferences she made sure to touch base with every person in that ever-growing web.
As a delegate to the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC), Donna continued her mission to bring people together. She believed strongly in NERGC and cooperation between a score of societies with differing interests. On more than one occasion, as deadlines for last year's NERGC were fast approaching, the patience of delegates was wearing thin and tempers were on the rise. But Donna was there at meeting after meeting with words of encouragement. In recognition of her volunteer work, the delegates unanimously voted to establish the Donna Holt Siemiatkoski Volunteer of the Year Award to be presented annually to that person performing volunteer services to NERGC or one of its member societies who best personifies Donna's spirit of volunteerism.
Recognizing the need for a forum in which Connecticut's professional genealogists could learn from one another and work together to assist organizations like the Connecticut Historical Society and CSL, Donna was the impetus behind, and the first president of the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council. That organization has established an ongoing memorial to her in the Donna Holt Siemiatkoski Acquisitions Fund, which will be used to purchase genealogical books and other materials for area research libraries.
She served on the Board of Governors of the Connecticut Society of Genealogists, chaired their Government Relations and Program Committees, and was their representative to the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Her ability as a communicator and her multiple Government Relations hats put her in the unique position to promote the genealogy community's needs in the wider world, especially to governmental agencies in charge of records and record keeping.
For nearly twenty years, Donna was virtually a permanent fixture in CSL's History and Genealogy Unit. She was appointed by the Governor to State Historical Records Advisory Board, chaired by State Archivist Mark Jones and also represented the genealogical community on the CSL's Newspaper Project Advisory Board.
Donna felt strongly about CSL. After Saturday hours were eliminated due to budget cuts almost ten years ago, Donna became a vocal leader of those who worked for years to secure legislation to have those hours restored. That dream finally became a reality on July 28, 2001.
Donna pulled members of the genealogical and historical community together to support legislation that provides a mechanism to fund the preservation of Connecticut's original records. One of the results of those efforts, annual grants to town clerks for records preservation, was recently announced in area newspapers and recognized through a ceremony at the State Library. When it became clear that the State Library, including the State Archives, had a true space crisis, Donna literally marched a group of genealogists from the State Library across the street to the Legislative Office Building to testify. The Library will be moving certain collections to a new off-site storage facility later this year. These accomplishments are certainly memorials to Donna that we at CSL will not forget, and the State Library recognized her for her efforts on its behalf at a Valentine's Day luncheon a year ago.
At one time or another, Donna encouraged so many of us to join or assist with organizations in which she was involved. She encouraged us to speak out on genealogical and other issues. She brought out the best in us, encouraging and developing strong ongoing leadership for each organization of which she was a part. Above all, she showed us as individuals and as organizations how to work together for the common good. In accomplishing all this, Donna created her true and lasting memorial.
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