Janice O'Keefe-Billings

Janice O'Keefe-Billings

1949 - 2014 NORTH ADAMS Janice O'Keefe-Billings died at Kent County Hospital, R.I., on Feb. 1, 2014, surrounded by her family. Janice was predeceased by her father, Bernard O'Keefe, and by her brothers, William and Steven O'Keefe. She is survived by her mother Dorothy O'Keefe; sisters, Maureen, Elaine, Judy and Peggy; brothers-in-law, Ronnie, Mark, Michael, and Bobby; nephews, Sean, Bryan, Dennis, Gabriel, Jason, Peter, Scott, Mike, and niece, Jillian and her husband, Clark Billings, and stepsons, Brewster Billings, of Fort Worth Texas , K.C. Billings of Leeland, N.C.; daughters-in-law, Stephanie and Jill, and six step-grandchildren. Janice graduated from Bellingham High School in 1967 and went on to earn a bachelor's degree at North Adams State College, Summa Cum Laude, in 1978, and a graduate degree from the University of MA in Amherst. Her life's work reflected her deep commitment to the human cause. For over 20 years, Janice labored to improve health and social conditions for the disenfranchised through her leadership and activism as Director of Public Relations and Communications for the Visiting Nurse Association of the Northern Berkshires and her involvement in myriad community organizations, notably the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, an organization of health and human service providers and advocates. Like her beloved father, "Barney the Bard," Janice was a muse and a gifted writer of prose and poetry. One of her most poignant poems was inspired by the tragic death of her younger brother, Steven, who died at the age of 22. Wracked with grief, she wrote: Steven you lay softly silenced sleeping in a twilight zone between now and then. And then We bore you from building to building In a copper colored casket. Blue Flowers; white flowers; yellow, blood red flowers that all died in the sun Messages gone. We laid you down in the brilliant heat of summer; We gave you to the parched crumbling earth Steven, we ask Where is your beautiful, blonde, laughing, mocking face? We search but no answering voices whisper And no deadened eyes speak By Janice O'Keefe Janice was a woman of extraordinary intellect, strength and beauty with an exquisite artistic sensibility and a flair for the dramatic. She had a fiery nature and lived large. Her valiant 30-year struggle with a debilitating progressive disease was testament to how the human spirit can prevail in the face of adversity. For all the suffering she endured, she refused to allow her disease to define her, albeit in the end, there was no escaping the unrelenting assault on her body and soul. To her family and friends, she will forever remain a study in human courage, a woman of passion, humor, daring, and panache. FUNERAL NOTICE: Calling hours will be Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at THE CRANSTON-MURPHY FUNERAL HOME of Wickford, 140 West Main Street, North Kingstown, R.I., with a service at 6:30 p.m. A gathering will follow at a nearby restaurant. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Rhode Island chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Checks can be mailed to 205 Hallene Road, #209, Warwick, RI 02886. For online messages of condolence, kindly visit www.CranstonMurphy.co

Published in The Berkshire Eagle on Feb. 3, 2014