Joan Kirke Obituary

Joan  Kirke
Joan Kirke
Joan Kirke

December 10, 1943 - December 4, 2009
Born in Chicago, IL
Resided in West Des Moines, IA
  • Contat Us
  • Guestbook
  • Photos
  • Services
  • Send Flowers


Joan Bing Kirke, devoted mother, wife and friend, passed away at her home on Friday morning in West Des Moines. She was 65.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 10, 1943, Joan was the first of three children and only daughter of Ferd and Fern Bing. She and her two younger brothers grew up in Evanston, Illinois, where their father practiced law as a patent attorney. Joan was a child of the American Revolution and decendent of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. This connection to the American Revolution and the nation's 1776 origin imbued Joan with a lifelong sense of patriotism and passion for history, which she shared with her husband of 42 years, Gary Kirke.

Joan loved art and the arts. After graduating from Evanston High School, she went to Stevens College in Columbia, Missouri, and earned a degree in fashion design. She moved back to Chicago to attend the Art Institute of Chicago and work in the advertising department of the Chicago Sun Times.

While living in downtown Chicago, Joan was introduced in 1964 to her future husband, Gary, by Steve Blank, another Des Moines native. They married in 1967. A talented seamstress all of her life, Joan designed and sewed her own wedding gown.

Joan and Gary moved to Des Moines the fall of 1973 to start Kirke-Van Orsdel Inc., an insurance brokerage and benefits administration company. Their family grew to four children—Gary Jr., Charlie, Tim and Jonna. Joan took an active role in the community serving on the Junior League and the board of the Iowa Society for the Prevention of Blindness.

Her children remember their mother as always putting them first—a human library who seemed to remember and have cataloged everything that had ever happened to them. She encouraged them to be artistic and infected the children with her sense of curiosity and penchant for travel. By the time, she graduated from high school, she had been to all of the lower 48 states. She made sure her children had the same advantage and added Hawaii and Alaska.

Her greatest joy was the birth of her grandson, Jack, this past summer on July 23. At his birth, Jack weighed 1776 grams. Joan saw her grandson at Thanksgiving and delighted in every minute.

In many ways Joan enjoyed a life of great success and advantage, but she also faced many challenges with her own health. In 1991, she battled back from a near fatal a brain anueurism. Five years ago, she suffered a debilitating seizure. In 2007, years ago, she beat breast cancer. With each challenge, Joan persevered and continued to work on numerous projects. She never once stopped doing the things she loved—reading, knitting, needlepoint and designing. In fact, the night before she died she was working on a needlepoint and Christmas presents for her children.

As her family and friends recall memories of Joan, the stories are not about the challenges she faced but rather about her generosity and her zeal for life.

They remember times such as Tiger Jam I in 1998. It was the first big fundraiser for a Tiger Woods' foundation. On the block was a round of golf with Tiger at Wyndemere in Florida. Joan knew how much her children admired the Woods. She started bidding. So did the owner of the Rio Casino in Las Vegas. Joan prevailed, and the Kirke children golfed with Tiger Woods.

Joan loved going to Okoboji. In 2007, she and Gary built the Joan Bing Kirke Rehearsal Hall to support the Okoboji Summer Theatre, which is operated by her alma mater, Stevens College.

Joan is survived by her husband, Gary; sons: Gary Jr. (Andrea), Charlie, Tim of Scottsdale, Arizona; daughter Jonna Kirke Crandell (Josh) of West Des Moines; grandson, Jack; brothers John Bing of the Chicago area and Jean Bing of Atlanta. Gary and the children are deeply grateful to Joan's devoted assistants Angie Mesenbrink and Rosa Nativi, who were important part of her life.

A visitation is being held 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Monday, December 7, at St. Francis Catholic Church in West Des Moines. Funeral services will follow at 11 a.m. A lunch will follow at the Marriott West on 74th Street in West Des Moines. A private family burial will at Glendale Cemetery.


"Click here to view memorial folder"




St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
7075 Ashworth Road
West Des Moines, IA US 50266
Monday, December 7, 2009
9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
7075 Ashworth Road
West Des Moines, IA US 50266
Monday, December 7, 2009
11:00 AM