In memoriam: Emeritus missionary Irma O’Neal, 93

Irma O'NealIrma Schneider O’Neal, an emeritus International Mission Board missionary who shared the gospel among South American people in Brazil, died July 5, 2019. She was 93.

O’Neal was born Feb. 4, 1926, in Rosenberg, Texas. From her obituary online: “Having decided to give her life to Jesus at the age of 9 and been baptized at the age of 13, Irma felt called to serve the Lord in some form of ministry while still a senior in high school. She decided then, she would pattern her life to live in God’s service.”

She attended Howard Payne College (now University) in Brownwood, Texas, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. O’Neal was married to emeritus missionary Boyd Allen O’Neal. They were appointed as IMB missionaries to Brazil in 1949. Mrs. O’Neal served in church and home evangelism in Maceio, Alagoas, Brazil.

“When she arrived by train in Brownwood as a young college freshman, a young man named Boyd, who worked for Railway Express, helped with her big, heavy trunk and made sure it was delivered to her in good shape in her campus dorm building,” her obituary recounted. “This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and courtship. Engagement followed in November 1944. Irma and Boyd were married on May 31, 1945, for 66 years, until Boyd passed away in 2011.

“Irma used her homemaking skills, wise counsel, and gentle, calm, caring spirit to minister to the many people she came in contact with throughout her lifetime. She joined other women and together they worked tirelessly in a girl’s orphanage, camp programs, local church and women’s ministries. She was a source of strength and support for Boyd while he also labored in ministry. She developed lasting relationships with people from all walks of life, anywhere she lived.”

In a 1965 newsletter to their stateside supporters, the O’Neals wrote: “We would like to express to you how happy we have been serving as Missionaries of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. We have had the privilege of being ‘your’ missionaries since October 10, 1949. We want to thank you for the way you have supported us both with your money and your prayers. We are grateful to you for providing the financial part necessary to operate and project a program on the mission field.”

“It is natural for us to think that Brazil is the greatest mission field in the world,” they wrote.

O’Neal is survived by her children: Melba Hogue and husband, Doug, Betty Brown, James Edward and wife, Cindy, and Rebecca Gore and husband, Ken; seven grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; her sister-in-law, Barbara Schneider; and many beloved nieces and nephews.

A memorial service was conducted July 13 in Allen, Texas.