Diane Downs Derr

Army Badge
  • Name: Diane Derr (Downs)
  • Location of Birth: Grand Rapids, Minnesota
  • Date of Birth: April 13, 1941
  • Date of Death: November 23, 2013 (72 years old)
  • Parents: Eddie Downs and Elna (Niska) Downs
  • High School and Class: 1958 - Blackduck High School, Blackduck, Minnesota
  • College:
  • Highest Rank:
  • Branch: Army
  • Other Branch: Women's Army Corps
  • Date Sworn In:
  • Place Sworn In:
  • Date of Discharge:
  • Place of Discharge:
  • Military Awards:

  • Military Highlights:
    Upon graduation, Diane joined the Women's Army Corps (WAC). After training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, she was posted to Ft. Eustis, Virginia where she met Bryan Derr, her husband of 53 years.

  • Wars Involved:

  • MIA / POW:

  • Civilian Life:
    Diane grew up in Squaw Lake, Minnesota and was Salutatorian of her graduation class.

    Forced by the policies of the time to leave active military service upon marriage and starting a family, Diane served as a federal civil servant in a variety of posts until Bryan's army retirement in 1976.

    In 1976, they moved to Max Township in Itasca County. Diane then worked for the Itasca County Sheriff's Office from 1976-1982.

    In 1983, they returned to Newport News, Virginia where she worked as a legal secretary and office manager until November, 2012. In her many years in the legal field, she was most proud of facilitating adoptions for children leaving the foster care system.

    An inveterate traveler, Diane enjoyed planning trips nearly as much as taking them and had reservations for a New York City theater and museum vacation for the new year at the time of her death.

    She gave generously to a variety of charities but had a special fondness for family shelters at Christmas, development charities like Heifer International and Kiva, and the social justice efforts of the Southern Poverty Law Center. A lifelong supporter of the Democratic party, she was particularly pleased with the outcome of the recent Virginia governor's race.

    Diane is survived by husband Bryan; her brother, Steve Downs; daughters Toni (John) Wilcox, Jody (Tony) Brantley, Danielle (Brian) Clark; grandson Dean Nelson, Jr.; granddaughters Tessa Derr, Eva Espinoza, Crystal Wilcox, and Leah Small; as well as three great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, Eddie and Elna (Niska) Downs.

    Diane died after a long struggle with lung cancer and a brief hospice stay. She is buried in the Niska Memorial Cemetery at Squaw Lake, Minnesota. No photo of grave marker is available at this time.

  • Tribal Affiliation(s):