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Obituary for Jane O'Neil

Jane O'Neil
Jane Stephens O’Neil (GoGo as she was known to her grandchildren), beloved wife of Thomas C. O’Neil, passed away March 16, 2017 in Lake Forest, IL, with her family by her side. Born February 13, 1943 to Morris and Virginia Stephens, Jane was raised in Des Moines, IA, where she made her lifelong friends, later lovingly referred to by their husbands as the “Des Moines Dollies.” Jane graduated from Roosevelt High School, attended the University of Iowa, and continued her “studies” at the University of Poitiers in Tours, France. While studying abroad, Jane developed a passion for cooking, entertaining, design, architecture, and especially gardens; all of which became lifelong pursuits that she undertook with enthusiasm and great success to the delight of her family and friends. After marrying in 1967, Tom’s business career took the family from Des Moines to Wilmette, IL; Short Hills, NJ; Winter Park, FL; and to Lake Forest, IL, where they have lived for 39 years. Jane’s joie de vivre—her inexhaustible enjoyment of life—and the depth of her generosity defined a life of love and good works. There was nothing small about Jane’s spirit. She entertained family and friends with Christmas Eve visits from Santa, egg hunts on Easter, and an all-American breakfast on the Fourth of July. GoGo’s birthday parties for her grandchildren were always special occasions; hot dog roasts over a campfire for the boys and elegant tea parties for the girls. Jane was the first to arrive with dinner for an ailing friend and never overlooked a birthday, graduation, or anniversary, all of which were cause for celebration. GoGo was not just a nickname, but an apt description of a person who never slowed down and never stopped giving. She always made time to drive a carpool, cheer on her grandchildren at their sports events, and nurture friendships throughout the communities where she lived. Jane used her abundant talents to promote and raise funds for the institutions that mattered most to her. She served as a Life Director of the Chicago Botanic Garden, where she helped produce the Antiques and Garden Fair for twelve years; the Women’s Board of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago; the Antiquarian Society of The Art Institute of Chicago; the Board of Directors of the Providence St. Mel School; Infant Welfare Society of Illinois Board of Associates; the Board of Directors of the Elawa Farm Foundation, where she was instrumental in the effort to preserve and restore its historic buildings and gardens; the Board of Trustees of the Lake Forest Country Day School, where she served several terms—first, when her children attended the school, and years later when her grandchildren were enrolled. Jane was a past president of the Lake Forest Garden Club and a vice president of the eight-year project to restore Lake Forest’s Forest Park, which was completed in 2016. She was recognized by the Garden Club of America for her work on behalf of Forest Park. Of all her roles, Jane’s favorites were wife, Mom and GoGo. Jane’s enthusiastic spirit, her strength, and her grace will be missed especially by her adoring husband of forty-nine years, Tom; her children P.J. (Jana), Charlie (Katie), Riley, and Tommy (Molly); her brother, Tom Stephens; and many nieces and nephews. GoGo was the beloved grandmother of Georgia, Patrick, Will, Andrew, Huston, Helen, and her namesake, 4-month-old Jane O’Neil. She was preceded in death by her parents; her brother, Jack Stephens; and her daughter Mary O’Neil. A family burial service has been held. There will be a celebration of Jane’s life on April 28 at 4:00 pm at Onwentsia Club, Lake Forest. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Jane’s name may be made to the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL 60022, and Lake Forest Country Day School, 145 S Green Bay Rd, Lake Forest, IL 60045.
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