Life Comes Full Circle


    Katherine O’Neal lived with an adopted father who molested her and a mother who eventually had a nervous breakdown and was in and out of mental health institutions. Katherine came to Vera Lloyd after her mother was institutionalized. She completed 7th and 8th grade in Monticello.

    She said the staff showed love in big and little ways. “One time, I was upset because I was behind on my laundry and wasn’t able to move my clothes from the washer to the dryer at the right time,” she said. “One staff member was kind to put my clothes in the dryer for me so I had clean dry clothes the next day.”

    Katherine left Vera Lloyd just before her freshman year in high school. She and her mother moved to Missouri and lived with her adopted father for a few months. Her mother was in and out of hospitals, eventually diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. Her behavior was erratic, and frightening. On Katherine’s very first date, her mother called the police with allegations that Katherine’s date, kidnapped her. When her date returned Katherine to her home, her mother physically attacked the young man. Katherine chose to re-enter foster care.

    She earned a degree in nursing and a graduate degree in counseling. She has worked as a psychiatric nurse and is a counselor at Missouri Girls Town, a nonprofit organization that provides individualized care to abused and neglected young women. She credits her experience with inspiring her to work with other challenged youth. As she said, “I’ve been where the kids I work with are. My experiences motivated me to be more.”

    Katherine has been married for 18 years to her husband, Larry. They have 24 grandchildren, almost all of whom live near them. “I am grateful for Vera Lloyd. Being there gave me an opportunity to be a kid and to learn how to be a successful adult,” she said.

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