Memorial Service Scheduled for UGA Professor Mary Anne O’Neal

Mary Anne O'Neal

Mary Anne O’Neal of Athens died on June 17 after living with appendix cancer for over 10 years. Born in Bennettsville, SC on May 17, 1963, she was a graduate of Marlboro Academy, and earned her bachelor of arts in English at Mars Hill College in 1985, her master’s in education from Western Carolina University in 1988 and her doctorate in English from the University of Georgia in 1999. She taught English at UGA for three decades and was beloved by generations of her students.

She was an accomplished scholar and teacher and a skilled pianist whose varied repertoire ranged from Chopin to Broadway show tunes to top 40 hits of the 1970s and 1980s to the Broadman Hymnal. She created a beautiful garden at her home in Athens that continues to be a place of peace and comfort for her family and friends (though in her charming, self-deprecating way, she once wrote in a poem that she had “failed to ferret out the green verbena in its youth”). She loved words and books and wrote a brilliant dissertation on Kate Chopin and other women writers of New Orleans. Travel was her all-consuming passion, and over many years she and her family took trips to the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as to New Orleans, Santa Fe, Oregon, California and many other places in the United States.

In all things, Mary Anne embraced the beauty and magic she found in the everyday. “I’ve decided that the universe is going to come to me,” she once said, “if I can’t go to the universe.” She lived her entire life to the fullest, but particularly so in the years since her diagnosis. She traveled widely, befriended many, and loved fiercely and fully her husband of 25 years, David Ingle, and their three children Joseph (and his wife Victoria), Madeleine and Eliza.

Mary Anne had a rare combination of fine qualities: a brilliant mind, a formidable memory, a gentle spirit, effortless beauty, and an ease about herself that in turn put those around her at ease. She possessed resilience, wit, wisdom, grace and genuine compassion. She was eminently practical yet admirably idealistic. Words cannot capture her adequately, but one of her dear friends put it well when she said, “When I was with her, I knew I was home.”

In addition to her husband and children, she is survived by her father, Charles O’Neal of Brownsville, SC—her mother, Celia Moore O’Neal, predeceased her in 2011—her sister Martha Glover (husband Will, niece Celia Adams, nephews Bill and Tom Glover), and her brothers Charlie (Marsha, Bo and Erin), Steve (Ann, Jennifer and Scott), and Johnny (Beverly, Jessica, Joshua and Jacob).

After her death, her daughter Madeleine discovered the following quote from John Henry Griffith in Mary Anne’s notes. We think its eloquence should be shared: “I am convinced that there is something more: that human consciousness is independent of the body, and that the death of the body is not an ending of consciousness—it is rather a passing. Into what? I confess I do not know, but I have a deep, abiding trust in the Divine Ground of all existence that the major world religions have variously called God, Mind, Allah, Tao, etc. My parting wish for my friends is that they nurture compassion and walk humbly in the presence of Unfathomable Mystery.”

A memorial event will be held at the University of Georgia Chapel on Friday, July 14 (time TBD). An interment and religious service will take place at Brownsville Baptist Church in Marlboro County, SC on Wednesday, July 12 (time TBD).

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Appendix Cancer/Pseudomyxoma Peritonei Research Foundation, the Genetics of Appendix Cancer Study at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center or the UGA Department of English.