Nicky O'Neill

Nicky A. O’Neill, 67, of Waukon died Saturday, October 28, 2023 at Northgate Care Center in Waukon. Memorial services will be held in the spring of 2024. Martin-Grau Funeral Home in Waukon is handling the arrangements.

Nicholette Ann O’Neill was born 67 years ago, a sweet little Down’s Syndrome baby, to parents Eleanor and Leo O’Neill of Harpers Ferry. Nicky lived with her parents and two older brothers, Dan and Greg, on what was known then as the “Hart” farm on the Mississippi River just north of Harpers. In 1959, when Nicky was three years old, she moved with her family to the “Joyce” farm on the bluff overlooking the Hart farm.

Nicky overcame a lot of adversity in her life, which started out with her having to be fed from an eyedropper to get her started.

Nicky liked life on the farm. When she got that twinkle in her eye, though, you knew she was up to something. Dan remembers occasionally having to climb the windmill on the Joyce farm to try to locate Nicky as she ran away, making a game of seeing how far away from home she could get before being captured, barely as tall as the field of alfalfa she was running through, laughing all the while. Dan also remembers babysitting Nicky, and teaching her the fundamentals of being a kid. Greg remembers Nicky as an athlete, wrestling with her, running races against her, boxing with her, and playing catch.

Nicky was a good athlete, participating in several events in Special Olympics over the years. Nicky attended school in Waukon and later Decorah. Nicky was very affectionate and kind, clever, resourceful, forgiving, playful, sensitive, curious, and stubborn. She had a good sense of humor and was quite a tease. She was very careful and didn’t like making mistakes. Nicky liked strumming her guitar, doing paperwork, and watching TV. She loved pro wrestling, especially John Cena and The Rock, and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Nicky liked Pepsi, cheeseburgers, Snickers bars, chips, and the occasional small glass of beer, shared with her mother on hot Friday nights during the summer. Nicky’s stand-offs with her mother regarding Nicky’s dietary choices were entertaining.

When Nicky’s dad died in 1980, she and her mother continued to live on the farm most of the year, but spent their winters in Harpers Ferry until 1990, when they sold the farm and lived full time in Harpers. She liked living in town too, every day riding her bike across the tracks from her home to the post office to get the mail.

Nicky’s mother died in 2000, but not until she and Nicky had made many trips out west to visit Nicky’s brothers and their families. Nicky enjoyed traveling and was very good at it. She was able to fly unaccompanied between Minneapolis and Portland in the fall or at Christmas time for many years after her mom died.

After Nicky’s mother died, Nicky moved to the Martin Luther Group Home in Waukon, later known as Mosaic, where she received excellent care. Nicky worked at T.A.S.C. for years, where she learned work skills and teamwork. She retired from T.A.S.C. just a few years ago. T.A.S.C.’s location was just a cornfield away from Mt. Olivet where Nicky regularly visited her parents’ graves. Nicky was very social, had a lot of friends, and enjoyed being part of a ladies’ group that met at the S&D once a week.

Several years ago, Nicky went to live with her beloved caregiver, Carol Hinrichs of Waukon, and she was welcomed into Carol’s large extended family. When Nicky’s health began to fail in the spring of 2023, Nicky became a resident at Northgate Care Center, where again she became close with the staff and received excellent care.

Throughout her life, Nicky received many kindnesses, from her neighbors in the Harpers Ferry area, especially the Saddlers and the Cotas, and from her aunts, uncles, cousins, her brothers’ in-laws, teachers, and caregivers.

Nicky was preceded in death by her mom and dad and by her great friends, Elaine Johnson and Brian Slindee of Lansing. She is survived by her brothers, Dan (Nancy) and Greg (Connie); and her nieces and nephews.

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