joanna o’keefe
1937-2022

JoAnna O’Keefe (Letters) 85, Cape Canaveral Branch (FL)
August 29, 1937 – December 8, 2022


I would rather

blossom for a season

face full to the sun,

than moulder on the vine,

afraid to flower.

 

JoAnna O’Keefe, a poet, author, inspirational speaker, and cherished member of the Cape Canaveral Branch, passed away after a short illness on December 8, 2022.Those who knew her will remember her compassionate spirit, which she expressed in hundreds of poems composed over several decades.

JoAnna was an engaged citizen throughout her life, beginning with running fundraising events for the USO during the Viet Nam war. A graduate of Syracuse University in New York, JoAnna brought to her poems the accumulated experience of studies at the Pecos Benedictine Monastery School for Spiritual Directors, near Santa Fe, New Mexico; the Northern Arizona Hospice Program; the Dale Carnegie Course; studies in contemplative prayer at the Benedictine Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, and the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She studied Christian spirituality and the psychology of C. G. Jung at the Einsiedein Conference in Switzerland.

JoAnna’s spiritual journey to writing began with two profound losses. Her father’s death left her in the depths of sorrow and took her to Florida to seek solace. She lived in a cottage by the sea with her husband Jack, her high school sweetheart, and their son and daughter. Then the murder of a lifelong friend left her bereft and paralyzed with grief. She spent days sitting on the beach, adrift with the pain of suddenly losing two people she loved dearly.

That pain brought a new birth—JoAnna’s emergence as a poet. In 1988, she went on a pilgrimage in Yugoslavia shortly before war came to the Balkans. There, in a crowded church in a tiny village where miracles happened, she prayed to write a poem about peace. Back in the sanctuary of her home in Florida, she poured out her heart and feelings in poetry that later became her now-classic poem, Come to the Garden which was read at the 51st National Prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C.

“Writing, I found,” she said, “was a bridge to wholeness – a way to get in touch with my feelings, hopes, and dreams, a way to listen to Spirit’s voice within.”

JoAnna went on to write compelling poems that have been published and read by officials in Washington, DC, incorporated into the commissioning of a U.S. Navy ship, and awarded many other blue-ribbon accolades and honors. She is the author of five books of poetry. One of her proudest accomplishments is her patriotic poem turned into song, America at the Crossroads, released in December 2014. Dedicated to the American people, the song was performed by the Brevard Symphony Orchestra at their annual July 4th Concert in Cocoa, Florida.

JoAnna was a 2016 recipient of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge National Award: George Washington Honor Medal. Her work was read into the Congressional Record on May 4, 2017. In April 2018, JoAnna received the President’s Prestigious Pen Woman Award, for Distinguished Achievement in Poetry. The award reads: “Her exceptional creation of America at the Crossroads to inspire national unity has brought great credit to herself, and the National League of American Pen Women, Inc.” A popular inspirational speaker, JoAnna offered presentations integrating her poetry with spirituality. 

JoAnna is survived by her son Matthew and daughter Patricia and six grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband Jack and her granddaughter Elizabeth. Donations are invited for Project Ellie, a nonprofit established in memory of her granddaughter who passed away in 2011: https://www.projectellie.org.