Joan Gallagher Farrell of Newport, RI died on Sunday, March 26, 2023 at home with her family by her side.
Born October 24,1942, in Newport, she was the daughter of the late Francis J. and Ernestine D. (LeBoeuf) Gallagher. She was the beloved wife of William T. Farrell.
Joan’s pride and joy was her family. She is survived by her daughter, Margaret Farrell and her husband Tomasz Eliasinski of Brooklyn, NY; her daughter, Katherine (Farrell) Richardson and her husband John Carter Richardson of Newport, RI; her son John Farrell of Washington, DC; her grandchildren, Mary Frances and William; her brothers, Patrick Gallagher and Timothy Gallagher; her sister, Margaret Gallagher; and her sister-in-law, Sandra (Irons) Gallagher. She was preceded in death by her brothers, Michael Gallagher and Ernest Gallagher and her sister-in-law, Ellen (Curran) Gallagher.
Joan was a graduate of St. Joseph’s Grammar School (1956) and St. Catherine’s Academy (1960), both in Newport, RI. She received a bachelor’s degree from Salve Regina College (1965), Newport, RI and a master’s degree in special education from Canisius College (1967), Buffalo, NY.
Joan knew “Billy” Farrell her whole life. He grew up across Kay St from her grandmother’s house and they went all through school together in Newport. On July 13, 1968 she married him and began a new phase of her life as a military spouse and mother. Their adventures with the U.S. Air Force found them stationed in Panama City, FL; Washington, DC; Kansas City, MO; Rochester, NY; Omaha, NE; Montgomery, AL and Bedford, MA. After Bill retired from the military, they spent several years in Needham, MA and Alexandria, VA. Regardless of where Joan was living, she insisted upon spending her summers in Newport, wanting her children to benefit from her roots in the city that she so loved. After Bill’s full retirement in 2015, they returned to Aquidneck Island permanently, eventually building their dream house back on Kay St where it all began.
While Joan’s heart was always in Newport, she never missed an opportunity to see another part of the world. She and Bill traveled together to more than 80 countries across all seven continents. While exploring, she made special effort to visit local churches and cathedrals, praying for us all along the way. In keeping with her famous love of paper-based correspondence, she sent postcards from every stop. Joan and Bill did a lot of their globe-trotting via cruises on the high seas, but Joanie still insisted that nothing ever compared to Narragansett Bay.
Joan had a strong passion for deaf education and began her related teaching career at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf in Buffalo, NY. From there she taught at the Kendall School at Gallaudet College in Washington, and at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf. She continued her life’s work in Needham, MA, working in the public school system to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing students within the community had the resources and help that they needed to succeed.
A devout Catholic, Joan volunteered and immersed herself in each new parish that she joined. She was especially proud of her work to create and oversee Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) programs for children with developmental challenges, helping to ensure that everyone felt included and had an opportunity to learn and grow within the church. While living in Virginia, Joan served as a member of the Board of Directors of SOAR (Supporting Our Aging Religious). She was instrumental in obtaining resources for retired nuns across the U.S. and fulfilling their mission to raise funds, educate and create a national network to meet these needs.
Joanie was a faithful champion of everyone around her. It could be argued that she derived more happiness in watching her loved ones succeed than she did from her own amazing accomplishments. She was an endless source of optimism, comfort and joy to all who met her. She famously had a way of clasping both of her hands around one of yours, flashing her bright smile, looking you in the eye and making you feel like the very best version of yourself. She was our North Star.
We welcome you to join us in a celebration of Joan’s “blessed and beautiful life” (a direct quote from her final days).
Visiting hours will be from 4:00-7:00 PM on Monday, April 3, 2023 at O’Neill-Hayes Funeral Home, 465 Spring St, Newport. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, at St. Joseph’s Church, corner of Broadway & Mann Ave, Newport at 10:00 AM. Burial St. Columba Cemetery, 465 Brown’s Ln, Middletown. A reception will follow at Johnny’s Restaurant, Wyndham Resort, 240 Aquidneck Ave, Middletown.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American School for the Deaf , click on the “support us” link – “the first permanent school for the deaf in the United States and a nationally renowned leader in providing comprehensive educational programs and services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.”