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Woman who died trying to rescue dog is identified

April 04, 2011

By Jesse Garza of the Journal Sentinel

April 04, 2011 0

A 51-year-old woman who drowned while apparently trying to rescue her dog from an icy pond at River's Edge Park in Menomonee Falls was identified Monday as Diane Gondek Knudson.

Gondek Knudson, of Menomonee Falls, died Sunday at Community Memorial Hospital in Menomonee Falls after being pulled from 6-8 feet of water in the retention pond, police said.

Her husband, Richard Knudson, broke through ice on the pond while searching for his wife. He also was pulled from the water.

Gondek Knudson decided to take the couple's 5-year-old Airedale, Buster, and 9-year-old English Sheep Dog, Chloe, to the park about noon Sunday after attending church and going to breakfast with her parents, her husband said in an interview.

She thought about taking the animals to Granville Dog Park in Milwaukee but decided to take them to River's Edge because it was not as muddy, he said.

The couple planned to shop for groceries at the Sentry store in Menomonee Falls, where Diane was to start work at 3 p.m. When she didn't return home on time her husband called her cell phone.

"I heard it ringing in the kitchen. She left it on the counter," Richard Knudson said. He then drove to the park to look for his wife.

When he arrived, a man pointed to the sheep dog, which was struggling to pull itself from the icy pond, and he soon saw the Airedale floating dead in the water, he said.

"I knew if my wife wasn't on shore she was probably in the water," he said.

After asking the man to call 911, he raced to the other side of the pond, where he broke through the ice while crawling on his belly, he said.

Knudson managed to push the sheep dog out of the water but was only able to pull himself above the water to his waist. He and the dog were soon rescued by first responders, he said.

Firefighters later pulled Diane from the pond and she was taken to the hospital. Doctors and nurses tried to revive her for more than 30 minutes while her husband held her hand, he said.

Knudson commended emergency room staff for trying so hard to save his wife.

"They did everything they could," he said.

Diane Gondek Knudson was married to her husband for 28 years, was a 1977 graduate of Nicolet High School and earned a Bachelor's degree in business and fashion merchandising from Mount Mary College, Richard Knudson said.

She worked at the Sentry store in Menomonee Falls for more than 20 years and for the past six or seven years at a Sentry store in West Allis, he said.

She also was an active member of St. Agnes parish in Butler, which she and her mother would help decorate for religious holidays, he said.

"She also helped with Communion at services," Richard Knudson said.

A devoted dog lover, Diane Knudson served on the Granville Dog Park board, and she and her husband often volunteered to help keep the park clean, he said.

"She was devoted to her family and her dogs," Richard Knudson said. "She will be so greatly missed by everyone."

Along with her husband, Gondek Knudson also is survived by their son Troy Knudson, 23.

Menomonee Falls police said Monday that the drowning was an accident and warned people not to go out on spring ice atop ponds, streams, rivers or lakes.

About Jesse Garza

Jesse Garza is a general assignment reporter whose coverage areas include crime and breaking news.

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