"Concerned with the General Welfare of the Deaf of Iowa"

Updated July 4, 2017


Joan Marie (Sweeney) La Chapelle

 April 5, 1930 - July 24, 2015

Joan Marie LaChapelle (née Sweeney) of Mt. Angel, Oregon passed away surrounded by her children and grandchildren at the beautiful age of 85. Joan was born after her identical twin sister Joyce Francis in Omaha, Nebraska, and they were kept together in an incubator for three weeks. At just over three pounds each, they were left at the St. James Orphanage and eventually both were adopted by John and Mae Sweeney of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Joan taught at Iowa School for the Deaf during the school year, 1953-1954 where her sister, Joyce taught there for two years.  Joan attended Creighton University, where she met and would later marry Lawrence LaChapelle in 1957. Both educators, they moved from the mid-west to Texas, California and finally settled in Shaw, Oregon where they raised their five children. In Oregon she earned a Master's degree in Special Education from Oregon College of Education, and an Administrative Licensure from Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Education. Joan was a teacher to the deaf and blind at the Salem School for the Deaf, principal at St. Joseph School at St. Joseph parish in Salem, and principal at St. Mary Catholic School in Stayton. She was an educator from the age of 24 until she retired for the second time at 69. For 45 years she touched the lives of thousands of students, parents and teachers with her respectful and loving devotion to Catholic education, as well as for her disciplining stare, a.k.a. the "Principal Joan look". She loved pets and over the years brought home many dogs including Peggies 1, 2 and 3. She was preceded in death by her beloved sister Joyce, and is survived by her five children, Therese, Mimi, Joe, John and Francis; thirteen grandchildren, six great-grandchildren; and former husband Larry. To honor her wish to be reunited with her sister, she will be interred alongside Joyce in Washington, Missouri. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Joseph School in Salem, Oregon, or directly on their website. A Funeral Mass was held at St. Joseph Church, 721 Chemeketa Street NE, Salem, OR 97301 on Monday, August 3, 2015 at 10:00 AM.

Thanks to StatesmanJournal, Salem, Oregon (July 30, 2015) and Shirley Hicks for the information.