Volunteer, activist and advocate JoEllen Day Keating of Waterford died March 1 of lung cancer. She was 75.
JoEllen was known for her zest for life, her sense of adventure, her commitment to her community and her advocacy for the dignity and inclusion of all individuals. She was a tireless volunteer on behalf of Loudouners with disabilities and and a devoted supporter of the historic community of Waterford which she called home for nearly 40 years.
JoEllen was born November 16, 1943 in Mount Vernon, Washington, the daughter of Joe and Helen Day. The middle of five children in a lively postwar household, JoEllen was known in her hometown for her adventurous spirit and built friendships that she maintained throughout her life. JoEllen attended the University of Washington in Seattle before joining the newly established Peace Corps in 1965 and spending two years serving in rural Panama. The experience ignited her lifelong love of Latin American culture and the Spanish language.
When she returned to the Pacific Northwest, JoEllen attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. She met her first husband, the late John R. Schroeder, at Western. After their marriage, the couple packed up their Volkswagen Beetle and moved to the East Coast for John’s job with the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. JoEllen worked in regional development for the Organization of American States during their early days in the DC area. She and John and their two daughters made a home and many friends in Alexandria before moving to Leesburg in 1975.
JoEllen’s first marriage ended in divorce. She met and married the love of her life Joseph W. Keating III and moved to the historic village of Waterford in the early 1980s. Joe and JoEllen had two daughters, creating a high-energy blended family of six children. Their quirky historic home on Main Street was the setting for countless family celebrations for four decades. Their daughter Nora was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, launching JoEllen’s decades-long involvement Loudoun’s disability community, a commitment that continued well beyond Nora’s death in 2001.
JoEllen was a board member of the ARC of Loudoun and supported the founding of the Aurora School at Paxton Campus in Leesburg. Earlier this year, the Paxton Campus community dedicated a clubhouse space known as Nora’s Room in honor of JoEllen and Joe Keating. JoEllen was a board member and regular volunteer at the Blossom and Bloom thrift store in Leesburg, a non-profit benefiting organizations supporting individuals with disabilities. She was also a supporter of the ECHO program and organized the annual ECHO tennis tournament for several years.
JoEllen was an avid and excellent tennis player from the days of the old Loudoun Racquet Club and continued playing into her 70s. She took home the trophy from the annual Waterford Tennis Tournament in both doubles and mixed doubles numerous times over two decades and was known as a fierce and fun partner and competitor.
JoEllen served for several years on the Homes Tour committee for the Waterford Fair, and she and Joe opened their Hollingsworth-Lee house to visitors numerous times over the years. Her home was a social hub on Waterford Fair weekends, and every year, the family placed a long bench outside for friends and strangers to stop and chat. JoEllen volunteered at the living history exhibit at Waterford’s historic Second Street School. She was active in the Waterford Citizens Association and served as secretary for several years. Friends in the village remember her fun and flamboyant costumes in the annual Independence Day parade and her killer pies that regularly took home first place in the holiday bake-off.
JoEllen was an active longtime member and former chair of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee and served for many years as Waterford precinct captain. She mentored a new generation of local party leaders while continuing to give her time to candidates. She was committed to social justice and never missed an opportunity to take her grandchildren to the annual Martin Luther King Jr. march in Leesburg.
Over the years, JoEllen worked as a teacher for Loudoun County Public Schools and as a field worker for the U.S. Census Bureau. However, her passions were her family and volunteerism. She was a devoted and dynamic grandmother to nine amazing grandchildren. She shared her joyful enthusiasm for life with her grandchildren who have wonderful memories of hiking, skiing, beach vacations and family celebrations at her home. She was a constant and supportive presence at soccer and lacrosse games, swim meets and cyclocross races, school events, graduations and childhood milestones.
JoEllen will be much missed by her daughters Janann Schroeder Mercker (Christian) of Lovettsville, Jessica Schroeder (Ron Edwards) of Washington, DC and Molly Keating Milefsky (Greg) of Richmond; stepchildren Kristen Keating Pauchnik (Brian) of Pittsburgh, PA and Joseph W. Keating IV of Shepherdstown, WV and her nine beloved grandchildren. She is also survived by her brothers James Day of Arizona, John Day (Maria) of Burlington, WA and Donald Day of Bellingham, WA and her sister Janet Day Minegishi of Tokyo, Japan.
Daughter Nora Keating died in 2001, and Joe Keating died in January, 2018.
A celebration of life is planned for Saturday, March 23 at 4 p.m. at the Waterford Old School. Instead of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to the ARC of Loudoun in JoEllen’s memory.