Joseph O'Rourke Obituary

Joseph  O'Rourke
Joseph O'Rourke

May 11, 1928 - August 18, 2021
Born in Davenport, Iowa
Resided in Des Moines, IA
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Joseph O’Rourke Jr. 93 of Des Moines, Iowa formerly of Crawfordsville, Indiana died August 18, 2021.

Born May 11, 1928, Davenport, Iowa to the late Joseph O’Rourke Sr. and Adell (Jones) O’Rourke. Joe was raised in St. Louis, Missouri and graduated from Southwest High School in May 1946, after which he enlisted in the army and served as part of the General HQ staff during the occupation of Japan.

After his service Joe returned to attend the University of Missouri for undergraduate studies and enlisted in the ROTC program. While at Missouri he met the love of his life Beverly Miller while both were working together in the Theater department. Upon Graduation in 1952 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and served as an Information and Education officer with multiple assignments stateside. On December 27,1952 Joe and Bev were married and stood united for the next 66 years until Bev’s passing in March of 2018.

Joe began his teaching career teaching Speech and Theater at University of Hawaii, Hilo branch from 1954-1956 after which he returned to University of Missouri to teach and finish his graduate level courses earning a master’s degree and ultimately a doctorate in philosophy. Moving to Crawfordsville in January of 1960, to teach Speech and Rhetoric at Wabash College was supposed to be a temporary assignment; at least that’s what he told Bev as they drove through Park County countryside. But as luck would have it, he and Bev fell in love with west central Indiana and the college where he went on to chair the Speech Department and teach public speaking and coach debate with honors for 37 years before retiring in spring of 1997.

Through the years Joe was active with Kiwanis, Sugar Creek Players, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Montgomery County Democrats and was a founding member of the Montgomery County Leadership Academy.

With mixed emotions Joe moved to Des Moines, Iowa in fall of 2018, to be closer to their son Jerry and his family. Joe resided at Wesley Acres.

Surviving family; son, Jerry (Linda) O’Rourke; grandsons, Jonathan (Stacy) O’Rourke, Colin (Kristin) O’Rourke and Christopher O’Rourke; as well as a niece, Leslie Griffith, nephews, Todd (Sue) and David (Susan) Griffith and their families.

Memorials can be sent to the Joseph O’Rourke, Jr. Award in Rhetoric at Wabash College, Wabash Advancement Office 301 West Wabash Avenue, Crawfordsville, Indiana 47933,, or by phone please call 877-743-4545.

Due to COVID restrictions and protocols a Family Only Service will be held Saturday, September 4, 2021 at 11AM at St. John's Episcopal Church, Crawfordsville, Indiana. Live Video streaming of the service can be viewed on either Facebook or YouTube platforms through St John's website A public memorial event is being planned for spring of 2022

Online condolences are welcome at

Arrangements by Iles Dunn's Chapel.




Funeral Home
Dunn's Funeral Home
2121 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA US 50312


Joseph O'Rourke, Jr. Award in Rhetoric at Wabash College
301 W. Wabash Avenue
Crawfordsville, Indian 47933
An award has been established in honor of Joseph O'Rourke Jr., who taught for 37 years at Wabash College - 20 of those as the Chairman of the Department. Joe's family and friends in recognition of his creative teaching and long standing commitment to undergraduate achievement established this award on the occasion of his retirement from the College in 1997. The award is to be given to the graduating senior with the best Senior Project in the Rhetoric Department.