Whenever one of Joan McLean’s sons would tell someone that Joan raised four boys, the response was always the same: “Oh, your poor mother.” But Joan would not have traded us -- Patrick, Timothy, Brian and Terrence -- for the world. She and her late husband Gil created a family that was full of love and loyalty and laughter, even if we four boys were responsible for a bit of chaos along the way. As the four of us grew, and we saw the challenges that so many families face, we came to realize that we were the luckiest children on the planet. On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, we lost the best mother in the world when she went to her eternal reward.
Joan Marie Castillon was born on February 24, 1937 in St. Louis, the first child of Florence and Alan Castillon. She married Gil McLean in 1961 at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Webster Groves, Missouri and the first of their five children was born two years later. Their only daughter, Margaret Mary, died in childbirth, a loss that Joan described as “the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
When her sons were young, she was a full time parent, instilling in them the values of education, hard work, honesty and faith. Joan had been a teacher in her early 20s, passing on her love of reading to her sons, and later returning to the classroom at St Jude School. Like her loving siblings – David, Jerry, Lois and Vicki – she was a teacher and an educator at the core of her being, both in and out of school.
At the heart of Joan’s life was her deep, unshakable Catholic faith. It inspired every facet of her existence, and provided her with strength during her most challenging moments, especially when Gil passed and as she endured the difficulties associated with cancer.
Joan was a voracious reader who loved American history. She had a particular affection for Native Americans, and her many travels out west were often tied to connections she had with Navajos in New Mexico and the Lakota Sioux in South Dakota. She was also engaged closer to home, serving as a leader of several gardening groups and for decades playing multiple leadership roles with the local women’s organizations. She was especially proud to serve as an officer in the National Federation of Junior Women’s Clubs during the 1976 bicentennial year.
As much as she did outside of the home, she was a mother first. She was always there for us, encouraging us to dream; bandaging us when we fell; comforting us when we were sick; pushing us to travel far and wide; and sharing her pride in us when we succeeded. To her dying breath, she always showed her husband, her sons, her family and her many dear friends that they were loved. This love was unconditional. No matter how many shattered kitchen windows from errant baseballs she endured and no matter how many broken light fixtures she replaced caused by those of us who couldn’t understand the only family rule – No bouncing balls in the house! – her love was limitless.
She had a strong heart, which she needed when she would see son Tim near the top of the backyard trees, still climbing higher, or when Tim jumped off the back porch roof. (Yes, it was usually Tim.)
The boundless love in her heart was extended as her family grew. She welcomed and adored the Modern Girls – Angela, Amy and Suzzy – who married her sons, and her eyes shone brightly at any mention of her beautiful grandchildren, Jordan, Katelyn, Sarah Grace, Ian, Kara, Liam and Emma.
Joan McLean’s life was a lesson for us all, on how to be a daughter, a wife, a sister, a mother. To enter her orbit was to feel loved and cared for and welcomed. There was never jealousy and rarely anger; only support and warmth and joy.
For those of us left behind, her legacy is the knowledge we carry forward of how to be good parents and good friends. Along with Gil, Joan created a home that was, for family and friends, a safe harbor. We could hardly have asked for more.
Joan’s family wishes to express our gratitude to the staff at Hospice of Cincinnati and Grace Hospice in Michigan. We also want to thank the kind staffers at Twin Towers as well as Joan’s final home aide in Michigan, Aggie Caudill. In lieu of flowers, we encourage donations to the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Cincinnati or St Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota.
Visitation Friday, July 24th from 5pm-8pm at Neidhard-Minges Funeral Home, 3155 Harrison Ave Cincinnati, Ohio 45211. A second visitation will take place on Saturday, July 25th from 9:30am until time of Funeral Mass at 10:30am Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 3450 Lumardo Ave. Cincinnati, Ohio 45238.