Junior Mary Joy Uebelein, a nursing major and member of women’s social club Delta Gamma Rho, died on Saturday, March 16, after sustaining a brain injury from an automobile accident.
The accident occurred on Friday, March 8, as she was traveling home to Wildwood, Missouri, for spring break with her sister, senior Rachel Uebelein. Rachel sustained a concussion from the accident, which occurred an hour from their home.
Graduate student Caleb Uebelein, brother of Mary Joy and Rachel, said the family takes comfort in knowing Mary Joy will never be in pain again.
“We would like to thank everyone for all of their prayers and support this past week,” Caleb wrote on Mary Joy’s CaringBridge.com page. “While surrounded by family, Mary Joy left us this morning for her heavenly home.”
Senior Shelbi Bridges, a friend who joined Delta Gamma Rho with Mary Joy, said the outpouring of support throughout the week is a testament to Mary Joy’s character.
“Mary Joy will be remembered as a selfless, joyful light,” Bridges said. “She touched so many lives in her short 20 years. The hospital waiting room was often packed full of visitors just for her. The sweet girl doesn’t even know how loved she was and is. She will be remembered as a precious sister, daughter, and friend to so so many.”
Surgeons at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis performed a procedure on March 9 to relieve pressure created by swelling on Mary Joy’s brain, but her condition worsened. The family chose to remove Mary Joy from life-support machines on March 16 while allowing the medical teams time to recover her organs.
“Mary Joy is a great ambassador for the Lord and has devoted her life to helping others,” said her father Keith in a CaringBridge post. “The plan is to coordinate my daughter’s passing so she can save/help as many people as possible.”
University President Bruce McLarty said there will be a prayer vigil and memorial chapel held next week to honor Mary Joy.
“Because the Harding student body and the larger Harding family are so tightly-knit, the death of any student has a deep and profound impact on the entire campus,” McLarty said in a university news release. “Even those who did not personally know Mary Joy know someone who knew her well. Once again, Harding students will gather in chapel and on the steps of the Benson Auditorium to grieve together, to celebrate the life of a classmate, and to reaffirm our hope as Christians.”
In the week following the accident, friends and family of the Uebeleins found ways to support the family. A GoFundMe campaign was established to assist with medical expenses, and funds raised exceeding the goal will be donated in Mary Joy’s honor to an organization for at-risk women. Students also created a 24-hour online sign-up sheet to be in prayer for Mary Joy and the Uebelein family.
Details on the prayer vigil, memorial chapel and funeral services are pending, and the story will be updated as more details are available.