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CHAMPAIGN — Donna Jean Schell, 60, passed away peacefully at Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana, surrounded by close family, friends and much love on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019.

Donna was the delicate thread that stitched her family together. And, through her love of genealogy and talent for research, she was able to expand on the Schell family’s lineage and history, adding even more interesting pieces to the patchwork. Her life’s quilt also extended to her friends, most certainly considered family. While not born of or found in the family tree, they had been thoughtfully chosen along her path.

Her love of travel and acumen for planning yielded the most spectacular stories of visits. Whether it was bringing back treasures and rich spices from Turkey, or regaling tales of translating (even if poorly) the description of a pickpocket in a French police station, her adventures always sparked interest in those who didn’t travel along with her but could enjoy Donna’s trips through her eyes.

Diagnosed with Marfan syndrome at a young age, she became a champion for education, understanding and medical management of the disease. Donna considered herself a Marfan’s pioneer of sorts. As part of the first generation to learn more about truly aging with the disease, she attended annual conferences and sought out any and all information of value to share with those also facing the challenges Marfan syndrome often presents.

Donna is survived by her father, Albert R. (Patricia) Schell; two sisters, Gail (Davis) Wilson and Jennifer (Steven) Fraser; two stepbrothers, Michael (Natalie) Clay and Brian Clay; and much-loved nieces and nephews — Jessica Wilson, Jacob Fraser, Justin Fraser, Steven Clay and David Clay.

Donna was predeceased by her mother, Nancy Schell.

A celebration of life is being planned for early spring, March 21, 2020, at Meadowbrook Community Church, Champaign.

The family gratefully requests friends to consider donations in Donna's name to the Marfan Foundation at give.marfan.org/give/85796/#!/donation/checkout.