Nature reassured family moments after Joylene Mae O’Neill’s passing Saturday, August 12, 2017 with a gentle rain amidst a still sunny day followed by a beautiful rainbow over her backyard, a fitting thank you to one of its most gracious and compassionate stewards. Joy was born in Kalkaska to Marguerite and Earl Rugg on May 5th, 1932. With her beloved older brother Merlyn Rugg (departed 1989), Joy resided as a youth in both Grand Rapids and in Rockford, where she graduated from Rockford High School in 1950, broadly recognized as an academic and service leader among her fellow students, including recognition as Homecoming Queen. Joy married her husband Patrick Corban O’Neill, who survives her, in 1951. They would raise 3 sons in Forest Hills where they resided for nearly their entire 67 year marriage. Sons Daniel Patrick (65), Tedd Evan (55), and Brad Earl (46), along with their spouses, provided 6 grandchildren with 5 spouses, and 12 great-grandchildren, all of whom are blessed to survive their “mom”, “meme” and “great meme”, respectively.
Joy was a committed volunteer leader in West Michigan for nearly 40 years, serving as President of the Kent Community Hospital (Spectrum Health) Volunteer Auxilliary Board for over 20 years. In addition to leading hundreds of volunteers in that capacity, Joy utilized her expertise as a certified Master Gardener to conceptualize, build, lead and expand the horticultural therapy programs of that hospital system into a broadly recognized program of excellence that continues to this day. In 1990, President George HW Bush recognized Joy and her team’s efforts with one of his Thousand Points of Light Awards in recognition of impactful community volunteer efforts.
A lifelong learner and naturalist, Joy was perpetually and humbly interested in the deeper questions of nature and how we may behave with compassion on behalf of all beings. A deep lover of animals, Joy was an accomplished equestrian and owner of horses in addition to mothering a pantheon of well loved cats and dogs across the decades. An adventurer by spirit, Joy traveled broadly within the US, visited Japan, learned to fly an airplane, and always strived to say “yes” to everything and everyone she encountered.
Joy considered being mother, grandmother and great grandmother her most noble callings. She placed her strongest focus on cultivating ethical, inclusive, compassionate and learning-centric values in her three sons, who pursued her example within their own families, communities and careers as successful city managers, business owners, and entrepreneurs.
Joy did not want a long obituary and we know she is telling us “oh, just stop already and give the details for the folks!” Joy often said that “life is for living!” and she wanted her passing to be a celebration of it, not a bereavement. And so, here are the details our dearest Joy wants you all to know if you care to come be with us to celebrate one of the more remarkable women to grace this planet: The family will host two viewing periods from 2-4pm and 6-8pm on August 15th and a “Celebration of Joy” Memorial is scheduled on August 16th, 11am, both hosted at the O’Brien-Eggebeen-Gerst Funeral Home at 3980 Cascade Rd SE Grand Rapids, MI 49546.