On March 25, 2023, Jeanne Marie (Schnell) Olexy passed away peacefully at home after a long illness. She was the devoted wife of Ron Olexy for nearly 49 years and loving mother of son, Trevor and soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Renate Seiwert; sister to Chris and Dale Schnell, Bob and Holly Schnell, and Mike and Rhonda Schnell, Mary Lou and Arthur Schock; and auntie to eight nieces and nephews and to their spouses and children.
Jeanne was a gifted musician, accomplished pianist, and liturgical musician and composer. In the 1980’s, she and Ron performed Renaissance music concerts at the Smithsonian Museums, St. Anslem’s, and the Kennedy Center. They also led the Music Ministry at St. Rose of Lima (Gaithersburg, Maryland). In 1992, Jeanne formed the Music Ministry Ensemble for the Saturday evening Mass at St. Jerome’s Parish (Hyattsville, Maryland) and was director until 2003. She was a prolific composer writing chant for the weekly psalms and gospel acclamations to emphasize the talents of the current ensemble membership and composing several Masses, including the congregational and ensemble favorite, Mass of Inner Light.
Jeanne’s musical talents, however, were not limited to liturgical endeavors, she was also an inspiring, skillful teacher having received a Master of Music in Performance from Catholic University of America (1980). She joined St. Jerome’s School staff in 1996 and formed the St. Jerome's Children's Choir which still exists today. She also started the monthly Children's Mass for the school where the Children’s Choir led their friends in joyful worship.
While she readily recognized her gifted students, as many who teach do, her patience with special needs children was especially notable. She also encouraged students who were exploring music or were especially determined, and when they were old enough, she invited them to join the adult Music Ministry Ensemble. Many have said that they would have never sung in a choir as an adult if Ms. Olexy had not shepherded them and taught them how to sing in ensemble.
In late 2003, Jeanne began teaching private piano lessons full time and continued to share music through teaching for nearly 15 years. Many in the Hyattsville area were Jeanne’s students, and some have become talented musicians, are part of musical groups of local or national recognition, or teach music. However, all her school and private students have learned the discipline of practice and perseverance, even those who did not chose music as a career, and more importantly, they now have an appreciation for the beauty and serenity of music.
Ever the consummate humble person, Jeanne saw the greatness in every person. She was devoted to her faith and to looking out for everyone especially those who needed more, just as Jesus would do. In her later years, Jeanne took vows in the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites at the monastery in Washington DC; members are called to a quiet life of prayer, contemplation, and service. Jeanne’s departure from our physical sphere hurts. The world has lost a lovely soul and a talented and kind musician. May she enjoy the heavenly anthems.
Visitation will be on Tuesday, April 11th at 9:00 a.m. at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, 7501 Adelphi Rd, Hyattsville, MD. Mass will follow at 10:00 AM. Interment of Jeanne’s ashes at Arlington National Cemetery will be held at date to be determined.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Jeanne’s name can be made to the Discalced Carmelites. Checks should be payable to “Carmelite Friars” with “In Memory of Jeanne Olexy” in the memo line and mailed to Fr. Marc Foley, O.C.D., Discalced Carmelite Monastery, 2131 Lincoln Road NE, Washington, DC 20002