Written by Rachel McCurry
Throughout the week following spring break, the Harding community dedicated time to remember former junior Mary Joy Uebelein. As April 16 marked one month since Mary Joy’s death, her family and friends continue to share and receive support during their process of healing.
Mary Joy was in a vehicular accident on her way home for spring break, and she died from her injuries on March 16. Members of Mary Joy’s social club, Delta Gamma Rho (DGR), have been intentional about spending time together to heal. On Monday, March 18, DGR held a special meeting to allow members to grieve together and comfort one another. DGR president senior Chase Mangrum said the meeting helped the women process what happened since they were not together the week of the accident.
“We had singing and times of prayer,”Mangrum said.“We had specific prayers for Mary Joy’s family, for the club, just thanking God for Mary Joy and who she was and her life.”
In addition to facilitating and hosting memorial services in honor of Mary Joy, Harding offered a shuttle ride free of charge to students who wished to attend Mary Joy’s funeral on March 23 in Ballwin, Missouri.
Senior Rachel Uebelein, Mary Joy’s sister, said the amount of people at the funeral was a testament to how loved her sister was.
“The whole auditorium was filled with people, and they had to pull extra chairs in,” Rachel said. “There [were] a lot of Harding students who came in on the bus. Staff members came down in the plane, and a lot of other students drove themselves down. There were so many people there; it was just amazing to see how many people that my sister has touched in some sort of way through her life.”
Junior Emma Vaughn was close friends with Mary Joy and attended the funeral services. Vaughn said there were so many people at the visitation that visitors waited an hour to see her parents.
On behalf of DGR,Vaughn gave May Joy’s family encouraging notes from the club and a Bible in which members highlighted their favorite verses.
“Her parents are just incredible,” Vaughn said. “They have been so thankful for us which is crazy because we are trying to be there for them.”
According to Vaughn, a total of 10 people spoke at the funeral, including Harding students, members of Mary Joy’s youth group, family members and members of Breakdown St. Louis, a service organization close to Mary Joy’s heart. In lieu of flowers, the Uebelein family requested donations to continue the work of the organization.
Mary Joy’s legacy has not only brought awareness and support to Breakdown St. Louis, but her decision to register as an organ donor has served others in need as well.
“The organs were successfully transported, and 10 other people were either saved or helped in some way because of her desire to be a donor,” President Bruce McLarty said during Mary Joy’s memorial chapel service on March 21.
It was just amazing to see how many people that my sister has touched in some sort of way through her life.
– Rachel Uebelein, senior
DGR wants the club to remember Mary Joy’s selflessness and love long after current members graduate. To do this, they voted to change the name of the “Sunshine Girls” club office to “Joy Givers,” reflecting Mary Joy’s name. The role of those in this office is to support other officers and encourage members of the club in whatever way they see best.
“[ Joy Givers] just felt right because they are supposed to be the type of people that she was,” Mangrum said. “Each year when we get a new induction class during Club Week and they are learning about the different positions, that gives us a chance to tell them about Mary Joy, and it gives people the chance to remember her.”
While a month has passed since the accident, people are still fundraising to help the Uebelein family with medical expenses. Members of DGR designed and sold T-shirts to raise money for the Uebelein family, and Mary Joy’s GoFundMe page has surpassed its goal of $50,000, and has received over $52,000.
According to Rachel, support for her family has not gone unnoticed.
“It’s incredible, it really is …when a tragedy like this happens, you don’t necessarily think about every single aspect, especially when you’re in the moment of it … Midway through, my family kinda stopped and was like, ‘there’s so much we have to take care of,’” Rachel said.
Rachel said she appreciates that the Harding community has been intentional in honoring Mary Joy and providing support for both her friends and family.
“I just never know what any day is [going to] be like,” Rachel said. “So I really am grateful for everyone here: the staff, the students … Even if it’s just a smile, people don’t always know what to say, but I appreciate whatever type of way someone shows that they care.”