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Kathryn Joan Irwin

Kathryn Joan Irwin, 86, of Newcastle, Oklahoma, was called to her eternal home in Heaven on Wednesday, December 16, 2020, in Oklahoma City. The daughter of John Herbert Surbeck and Marguerite Eva (Carpenter) Surbeck, Joan was born March 30, 1934, in Oklahoma City.

Joan was a graduate of Capitol Hill High School and was a loyal and active Chieftain to the end. Joan was a trained Ballet and Tap dancer, and during her high school years Joan performed many times at the Civic Center in Oklahoma City.

Joan married her high school sweetheart, Col. Jack L. VanPool, in 1952 and began her married life in Norman, OK while her husband attended and played football at OU.

After her husband graduated college and began his military career, they started their family by adopting two daughters. During her marriage to Col. VanPool, Joan was often the sole provider and caretaker of her young girls while her husband was deployed to the Korean and Vietnam wars and working in Washington, D.C. She was very active in military life and hosted countless foreign dignitaries in their home while living on the base at Fort Sill. She was an active member of the Officers Club with the other military wives and an avid golfer in the ladies group.

In 1966, Joan married her soulmate and the love of her life, Earl E. Irwin in Oklahoma City. Joan and Earl moved to Bridge Creek/Newcastle in 1968 to be near her parents, and where she lived until last year when she moved to Oklahoma City.

Joan and Earl were active members of the community, even starting the first Real Estate Office in the area on Main Street in Newcastle. Joan would work with Earl in the office answering the phone, preparing listings and sales documents as well as opening up homes for showings.

They began their family worship at the First Baptist Church in Newcastle, where Joan taught Sunday School, sang in the choir, and spent many summers at Falls Creek Church Camp as a sponsor of the young girls. Throughout their lives together, she and Earl were instrumental in starting various churches in the area, including Woodland Hills. She was a founding member of Woodland Hills Baptist Church and taught Sunday School for many years.

In her spare time, Joan loved the arts and especially live theater, and held Gold Circle season tickets to the OKC Philharmonic and the Broadway Series for decades. She enjoyed china painting with her mother, playing golf, hunting for antiques, gardening, going for walks, camping, supporting her girls’ activities, and playing with her grandchildren. She never missed a basketball game, a softball game, a track meet, a cheerleading practice, a music concert or a piano recital. Joan was a mother to all her girls’ friends, her home was always open to slumber parties, and birthday parties, and gatherings of any kind. She spent many a day hauling kids around and couldn’t have been happier doing it. When her daughters were young, she was a troop leader for the Brownies and Girl Scouts. Joan’s calling in life was to be a wife, mother, and grandmother, and she sacrificed for and was devoted to all. Her greatest joy was her family. Joan was a benevolent woman and raised her family to be the same.

She annually took her young daughters to the Baptist Children’s Home where they delivered Christmas gifts and played with the children, all the while teaching by example how to give love to others, how to put others before self, and making the sacrifice to do so. Joan was a Godly woman who raised her family in a Christian home and taught her children and grandchildren to love the Lord, which is the greatest gift she gave to her children. She enjoyed lunching, shopping, and traveling with her countless friends and church family. She loved her group of friends endearingly called the “Donut Dollies” who met on Tuesdays at the Donut Shop for donuts, coffee, fellowship, and lots of laughter. Joan had a lifetime of friends because she knew how to be a friend. She was the first one to call and check on someone. She was the first one to prepare and deliver a meal when someone was sick, or drive someone to the doctor, or run an errand, or just call to ask how your day was.

Joan loved unconditionally and gave her love freely to everyone, she never met a stranger. Joan had two favorite quotes. “Smile and the world smiles with you.” And the quote she kept written in her bible, “There is something I am learning and I’m learning it each day, God gives us something better for everything he takes away.” Joan’s was a life well lived and her selflessness, kindness, compassion, and her fun loving, ornery spirit will be missed.

She was preceded in death by her parents John and Marguerite Surbeck (known in the area as Nanny and PawPaw); her husband, Earl Irwin; and her only sibling, her brother, Jim Surbeck of Newcastle.

Joan is survived by two daughters, Kelly Sharp, of Newcastle, and Sandra Mathis of Oklahoma City; three grandchildren, Jody Sharp, Rodney Sharp, and John Sharp; four great grandchildren, Hailey Sharp, of Oklahoma City, Megan, Anna, and John Sharp, all of Bridge Creek; one nephew, Steven Surbeck of Rush Springs; one niece, Vickie Surbeck Taylor; cousins, Dr. William Surbeck, Deborah Surbeck Lykes, and Nancy Surbeck; and a host of other loved ones and friends.

Funeral service were held at 10:00 A.M., Wednesday, December 23, 2020, at the Woodland Hills Baptist Church in Newcastle on Highway 76. Burial followed in the Blanchard Cemetery. Arrangements are under the direction of Eisenhour Funeral Home of Blanchard. Online obituary and guestbook are available at

The Newcastle Pacer

P.O. Box 429

120 NE 2nd, Suite 102 - Newcastle, Oklahoma 73065