Joseph O’Rourke Jr.

May 11, 1928-Aug. 18, 2021


Joseph O’Rourke Jr., 93, of Des Moines, Iowa and formerly of Crawfordsville, Indiana died Wednesday, Aug. 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 Second Lieutenant and served as an Information and Education officer with multiple assignments stateside. On Dec. 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 the Parke 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, and 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 W. Wabash Ave., Crawfordsville, IN 47933,, or by phone please call 877-743-4545.

Due to COVID restrictions and protocols a family only service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 4 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Crawfordsville. 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.