Elaine O’Neal, 91, was born February 12, 1928 in Aurora, Ill. to Alice and Axel Christenson. She had an older sister, Lorraine, and a younger sister, Gloria. When she was 16, the family moved to Maywood, Calif.
A mutual friend suggested that Elaine write to a Navy Seaman that was stationed overseas, Jack O’Neal. She began writing him letters, and they began corresponding regularly. They fell in love after he returned to the states and were married on June 9, 1947. He was going to Biola Bible College of Los Angeles, Calif. In 1954 Jack and Elaine both enrolled in California Baptist Theological Seminary where she served as President of the Pastorettes (pastors’ wives sharing thoughts on their ministry in the church).
Jack started the First Baptist Church in Wrightwood, Calif. in 1961. Elaine led junior church, vacation Bible school and weekday Bible studies.
They had three children. Laura, the oldest, married Kim Degenhardt in 1971 and moved to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where they found out that the Harrison Community Baptist Church, across the lake, was looking for a pastor. Jack was called to the position in 1973 and they immediately moved to Harrison, Idaho. Elaine was active in the church alongside her husband; she led Children’s Church, His Kids, cooked for teens and led Bible studies.
They served the church until 1994 when Jack retired and they moved to Hayden. He continued to serve as interim pastor as needed for other churches. After Jack had several strokes and other medical issues, Elaine was his sole care provider for some time. Jack passed in Coeur d Alene in January of 2007 at the age 80.
Elaine continued to serve and participate in adult class at Coeur d’Alene Bible Church. Her love of children inspired her to share her favorite stories at Larry’s Spokane neighborhood gatherings, where many called her the Storyteller. Occasionally, when she couldn’t attend these events, former listeners stepped up to follow her example and shared her stories.
The Storyteller passed away, surrounded by loved ones, at the Schneidmiller House on June 6, 2019. She was 91 years old.
Elaine is survived by her daughter, Laura Degenhardt (husband, Kim); sons, Larry O’Neal and Gary O’Neal (wife, Cathy); her grandchildren, Anna McKahan (husband, Chris), Kelly O’Neal, Heidi Mitson (husband, Aaron), Eric Degenhardt (Annie); and her great grandchildren, Kaya Myers and Greyson McKahan.
In lieu of flowers the family requests that a donation may be made to Hospice of North Idaho, Schneidmiller House or Harrison Community Baptist Church.
A viewing for Elaine will be Thursday, June 13, 2019 from 5- 7 p.m. at Yates Funeral Home - Coeur d’Alene Chapel, 744 N. 4th Street, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho 83814. A funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Friday, June 14, 2019 at the Harrison Community Baptist Church, 100 E. Pine St. Harrison, Idaho 83833.
Yates Funeral Home has been entrusted with the care of final arrangements. Please visit Elaine’s online memorial and sign her guestbook at yatesfuneralhomes.com.