Jeanne McLaughlin O'Craighan
August 7, 1927 – May 9, 2019
Jeanne M. O’Craighan: August 7, 1927—May 9, 2019 On May 9, 2019, Jeanne M. O’Craighan, known fondly as “Jeannie” to her friends and “Mumma” to us (her children), had the Irish passing she always wanted. In her final days, she was home and surrounded by loved ones—singing her favorite songs, reveling in our family’s characteristically dark humor, and celebrating her 91 larger-than-life years. A black Irish beauty with sparkling blue eyes and an infectious smile, Mumma was the middle child of Eileen and Philip McLaughlin. She grew up with her older sister, Joanne, younger brother, Neil, and large, extended family (her father was one of 13!) in Danvers, Massachusetts, home of the Salem witch trials and one of the state’s infamous 19th-century “insane asylums.” She relished her childhood adventures, self-publishing a book of family stories that told of her uncles’ lively jazz sessions on the porch and made-up games like “Henry,” a serial soap opera played at night. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1948 with a BA in English Literature from Boston University, where she met her husband (our father), John R. Welty. In keeping with her upbringing, she wanted a big family and ultimately had 10 children! They had the first five—John, Daniel, Elisabeth, Martha, and Sara—in Massachusetts and the second five—Amy, Mary, Joseph, Michael and Katherine—in Arizona, where they relocated in 1958 for our father’s work. When asked for her occupation on school forms, she wrote “domestic engineer.” She brought the creativity of her childhood into ours. Many nights, we sang while she played the piano or organ. She threw imaginative parties, once transforming our sunroom into the Hundred Acre Woods for my sister’s “Now We Are Six” leap-year-birthday party. And her DIY costumes for Halloween and parties were spectacular; her tour de force a giant turkey tail made of styrofoam and paper flowers. Our mother wasn’t one for status quo; she never stopped evolving. She divorced after 32 years of marriage and changed her name to O’Craighan to establish her own identity. At age 51, she earned her MA in Pastoral Theology. A year later, she got her driver’s license and purchased a cherry red, ’56, hard-top convertible T-bird. An advocate for social justice, she worked as a domestic violence counselor at Rainbow Retreat. She also founded the Phoenix Zen Center and directed it for 30 years, traveling the country and the world in pursuit of enlightenment. Having been a long-time Catholic, she adopted the practice of non-duality later in life, which can be found in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. And she had another 29-year relationship with Mr. Jordan Dancer. A reflection of her Irish heritage, Mumma had an indomitable, joyful spirit. She enjoyed shooting the rapids on the Colorado River and took gliding lessons. Soaring Over California, a flight motion simulator attraction at California Adventure, left her exhilarated. A lifelong, liberal Democrat, she was consistently and fully engaged in the political process. Her only regret in passing was that she didn’t get to see Trump ousted from office. She had a fierce wit right to the end, asking in a recent trip to the hospital if they’d “put a little weed” in her breathing treatment. She was an ardent and educated sports fan, particularly dedicated to golf and Phil Mickelson. A lover of stories, she was a prolific reader and enjoyed movies and theater. She was a talented artist, writer, and poet. Fiercely independent, our mother continued to live in her own home after a debilitating stroke in 2012. Brandyce “B” Gedman, her caregiver for nearly 6 years, helped make this possible. They developed a special friendship and came to know each other so well they could communicate without speaking. They were devoted to one another. When we think of her, we are reminded of Thoreau’s Walden… “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow out of life…” And so she did. Services will be held privately on June 8, 2019. Jeannie’s urn will be interred at St. Francis Catholic Cemetery, 2033 N. 48th Street, Phoenix, AZ. Cards and flowers can be sent c/o Sara Oliver to 15620 N. 19th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85022.