Joan Trenchard French, 91, a long-time Peoria resident, passed away peacefully on Valentine’s Day, Sunday, February 14, 2021. With a big heart and full of love for her family, friends, and community, Joan engaged in life to the fullest.
She believed everyday was an opportunity to make the world around us better. “Bloom where you’re planted,” she would say. Growing up in the small town of DeLand, Illinois, in the 1930’s, she was instilled with a sense of community pride, the importance of culture to enrich daily life and a curiosity, appreciation and zest to explore the larger world beyond.
Joan loved the arts and volunteered to serve in many organizations, including a long-time association with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, serving on its Executive Board for many years, President from 1984 – 1986, Chairman of the Peoria Symphony 90th Anniversary Celebration, and officer of the Peoria Symphony Foundation during the 1990’s.
She had leadership roles with the United Way, Broadway Theatre League, Fine Arts Society, and the Peoria Junior League. She served as Chair on numerous Junior League committees, including the development of the Docent and Student Loan Programs for the Lakeview Museum of Arts & Sciences. In honor of her years of service to Lakeview and to the successor, the Peoria Riverfront Museum, the museum named their Welcome Center for Joan in November 2019.
Joan was honored as the 1999 Recipient of the Julia Proctor White Arts Award for outstanding Arts Leadership at the Peoria YWCA Leader Luncheon in May 1999.
In addition to her civic leadership roles, Joan embraced her 40-year career in farm management as President of Trenchard Farms Inc., a 6th generation family-owned corn and soybean farm in east central Illinois.
Strong in her faith, she has been a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church since 1979 and joined the Peoria Cursillo in 1977, and has enjoyed many friendships over the years as a member of the Country Club of Peoria and in more recent years, the Illinois Valley Yacht Club.
Joan was born March 15, 1929, the daughter of Wendell and Helen Trenchard of DeLand, Illinois. Joan was grounded in her roots from rural Illinois and educated at the prestigious schools of Dana Hall (’47) in Wellesley, Massachusetts and Northwestern University (’51) in Evanston, Illinois. While at Northwestern University, she was President of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. In subsequent years, she served as President of the Theta’s Milwaukee Alumnae Chapter and President of the Peoria Alumnae Chapter.
She was married (1951-1976) to the late Taylor French and they had 3 sons, Bon French (Holly), Strawn French (Beth) and Penn French (Michelle). Joan was a devoted and supportive mother to her sons throughout her life, inspiring a sense of adventure, community involvement and life-long learning.
Joan relished learning about our world’s many cultures, having traveled to six of the world’s seven continents in her lifetime, including a 2-week trip to Antarctica when she was 84 as well as journeys to Tibet, China, the Amazon River, Machu Picchu, South Africa, Iceland, Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands, among others.
She continued studying throughout her life, participating in archaeological digs with the Foundation for Illinois Archaeology, attended American Symphony Conferences, furthered her musical education at Bradley University, and was a member of the Bradley Community Chorus.
In addition to her 3 sons, Joan is survived by seven grandchildren, Katheryn French Meagher (Charles), Taylor French, Kristen French, Will French (Chelsey), Garrett French, Hannah Klonowski and Kristyn Klonowski; and two great grandchildren, Walter French and Delaney Johns.
There will be a celebration of her life at a future date. Davison-Fulton Woodland Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Joan’s memory may be directed to: St. Paul’s Cathedral, DeLand Illinois Christian Church, Peoria Symphony Orchestra, Peoria Riverfront Museum or the charity of your choice.
You may view Joan’s obituary online at www.davison-fulton.com