Joseph "Joe" O'Neill

Joseph “Joe” Francis O’Neill, 44, of Waukon passed away peacefully at his home Saturday, June 30, 2018 surrounded by his family. He courageously fought stage IV lung cancer for two years before being called to his heavenly home. Throughout his battle, Joe still lived life to the fullest, doing what he loved with his family and friends.

Funeral services will be held Friday, July 6 at 11 a.m. at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Waukon with Fr. Mark Osterhaus officiating. Burial will be at Wexford Cemetery, rural Lansing. Friends may call from 3-8 p.m. Thursday, July 5 at Martin Funeral Home in Waukon, where there will be a 2:30 p.m. scripture service.

Joe was born September 26, 1973 to John and Mary (Conway) O’Neill in La Crosse, WI. He was raised around the Lansing-Harpers Ferry area and attended Waterville Elementary before attending Waukon High School, where he was active in basketball, track and baseball.

He continued his track career at Central College in Pella, where he obtained a degree in Elementary Education.

While there, he met Michelle Schmidt. When Michelle attended school and took an internship in Chicago, IL for four months, it became clear to Joe that being away from her was too hard, and he wanted to make sure they would never be apart again, so he made the trek out to Chicago to propose. They were married August 10, 1996 in Laurens. The good times experienced by friends and family at the rehearsal, wedding and reception are still talked about to this day.

After college, Michelle took a job with Hormel in Austin, MN, where Joe substitute taught in the local school districts and assisted Larry Wolfe in coaching softball back home in Waukon for the summer. Joe took a fourth grade teaching position in Titonka in the fall of 1997. While there, Joe was the assistant softball coach at Forest City. He taught school in Titonka until 2000 before taking a late, open sixth-grade position at Waterville Elementary School. After one year at Waterville Elementary, he moved up to East Elementary in Waukon, where he taught fifth and sixth grade until April of 2016.

While teaching and coaching in Waukon, Joe also found time to obtain his master’s degree in elementary education from St. Mary’s University. He was a dedicated boys track coach for 14 years and touched many lives. He finally was able to get back to his love of coaching softball in 2013, but had to give it up after being diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Joe loved teaching and left his mark on the many students he taught in his 19 years of teaching.

Joe was the father of two amazing children who were the light of his life. He enjoyed going to all of Tyler’s and Megan’s sporting activities. He was so excited to coach Tyler all four years of his high school track career and was looking forward to coaching Megan through her four years of softball.

Joe and his family went on several family vacations and enjoyed camping, fishing and hiking trips. He even made a trip to the Mediterranean Sea and Italy during his battle with cancer. While on vacation, he played numerous games of 500 with his family and always seemed to be on the winning side.

Joe loved playing basketball in Titonka’s pick-up games and semi-fast softball in Harpers Ferry. He played many softball tournaments with his dad, brothers and friends. He enjoyed deer, pheasant, turkey and squirrel hunting, ice fishing, playing cards (especially Euchre and 500), camping (in a camper), boating and golfing.

Everyone thought Joe was a quiet, soft-spoken individual, but he could be heard loud and clear on KNEI covering Waukon Indian football and basketball games. Even through his battle, he wanted to continue announcing the games to stay in touch with the school. The last football game he announced was the Iowa High School 2A State Championship game, in which Waukon won its first-ever state football title.

He is survived by his wife, Michelle, of Waukon; his children, Tyler (a nursing student at The University of Iowa) and Megan (a senior at Waukon High School); his parents, John and Mary (Conway) O’Neill of Harpers Ferry; his brothers, John (Becky) O’Neill and Tom (Christy) O’Neill, both of Waukon; his grandmother, Eleanor (Mullarkey) O’Neill of Waukon; his mother- and father-in-law, Kathy (Mike) Sangwin and Ed (Rita) Schmidt, both of Laurens; his sisters-in-law, Amy (Don) Saunders of Laurens and Amber (Chad) Leitzen of Dubuque; and many beloved aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. He was preceded in death by his grandfather, Stephen O’Neill; his grandparents, Hugh and Alice Conway; and other beloved family members.

Honorary casketbearers are John and Tom O’Neill, Chad Leitzen and Don Saunders. Casketbearers are Ryan Hogan, Trent Mitchell, Jeremy Strub, Ted Snitker, Larry Stott, Tim Waters, Jeff Cota and Andy Sires.

Online condolences may be left at

Rate this article: 
No votes yet