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With heartfelt prayers and great sorrow, we announce the passing of 66-year-old Gian Thi Giap O’Donnell, a beloved wife, our beautiful mother, a prominent businesswoman who owned multiple
commercial real estate properties and was well-known for her contributions to the City of South Houston. "Mom" as she was affectionately known to the thousands of her customers at her gas station, American Convenience on 1001 College Avenue in South Houston, entered into eternal rest with our Lord on June 10, 2023.
Her cancer diagnosis never stopped her from serving her longtime gas station customers at "Mom's Store," as she considered them her family members. Both Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell happily
gave rental opportunities to hard-working small business owners, and they always had a heart for the poor in the South Houston community.
Chemotherapy appointments never made her feel too ill to spoil her grandsons, who brought so much laughter and joy. "Mom" used her powerful voice to sing choir hymns at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Pasadena,Texas.
The one who will treasure her memories the most is her loyal husband of 40 years, James O’Donnell. She is dearly missed by her sons and daughters: Dr. Barrett O'Donnell, M.D.; her daughters, Daisy and Shirley; and her youngest son Colin O'Donnell, who blessed her with two adorable grandchildren, Jonathan and Elijah. Her surviving brothers and sisters in the Giap family will also honor her life to the fullest: Sinh Giap Huynh, Thanh Giap and husband Mike Pham, their son Khoa Pham, daughters Ann Pham, her husband Myoung; their children Noah Young and Leo Young, Brandon Giap and his wife Lisa; their children Isabelle, Christian and Elizabeth Giap, Huan Giap and Ann Giap; their children Fantine and her husband Paul Rizk and Bosco Giap, Jennifer Kopecky & husband John Kopecky; their children Tam Rukh and her husband Mohsin Rukh, Anne Martinez and her husband Caesar Martinez, Jonathan Giap and Yen Giap; their sons Gordan and Joesph, her brother Benton Giap, her sister Mimi and James Phan, Prisilla and her husband Hiep Lam; their sons Christopher and Nikolas, her late brother Hung Giap and his wife Kim Dung Giap; their daughters Lynn-Linh Thuy, Theresa Quynh Nhu, and Lan Thuy, her son Joseph Hoang Quoc Giap.
The O'Donnell family honors Gian's family and life achievements and her devotion to James, her husband: his eldest sister Patricia O'Donnell; his brother Michael O'Donnell and his son,
Michael O'Donnell, Jr., and his daughter Meilani; his brother the late Daniel O'Donnell; his brother John O'Donnell and his spouse Ping, and their children Patrick and Serena; and his youngest
sister JoAnn O'Donnell-Loza and her husband Arnie, and their daughter Nicole and son, Daniel. Patricia O'Donnell's children are her eldest daughter Nicole Gales O'Connell and her spouse Patrick, and their son Brennan; Christopher Gales and his spouse Dharma Shreedar, and their son Xavier and daughter Maya; Kara Gales-Rossello and her husband Luis, and their son Oliver and daughter Reagan; son Patrick Gales; and Paul Gales, Jr. and his spouse Nedda Gales and their sons Roman and Leo, and daughter Charlotte.
Gian O'Donnell will be reunited in Heaven with her late beloved father, Giap Bang Chuc and her mother Ba Maria Tran Thi May, her mother-in-law, Shirley J. O’Donnell, and dearly departed
William O'Brien, father-in-law Patrick J. O'Donnell, her younger brother Henry Giap, and by her beautiful daughter, Elizabeth Theresa O’Donnell.
Born in Saigon, the capitol of South Vietnam on December 12, 1956, she was the eldest of 11 and the main caretaker of her siblings. At a young age she was an entrepreneur, assisting her father in his tailor shop and later buying and selling gold jewelry. When war and turmoil threatened her family's way of life in Vietnam, our mother courageously worked with a Catholic priest named Father Joe to help her parents, brothers, and sisters safely cross the Pacific Ocean to pursue their American dream.
Our mother's first experiences in America started in Chicago, Illinois. She worked a part-time job at a store while earning her accounting degree and C.P.A. certification from the prestigious Loyola University. Local Chicagoans couldn't help but love Mom, because she tried so hard to learn English and loved to practice speaking it with her new friends in America, plus she loved the deep dish pizza so much she used to laugh and tell everyone she gained 15 pounds after nearly starving to death trying to get to the United States.
But her one true love was our father:James O,Donnell, and they were joined in marriage at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in the city of Chicago on December 18, 1982. Financial
opportunity and the brutal & "Windy City" winters brought the newlywed couple to sunny South Houston, Texas, where they decided to start their up-and-coming businesses and grow their young family together.
Mom would joke and say that she was a "big shot"; in South Houston; and it was true! Mom and Dad worked together for almost 30 years
to turn distressed buildings into modern, renovated business parks so that local small business owners could get their first opportunity to call a place their own. They were not afraid to risk it all and invest in South Houston, which was overlooked by many corporations during the time it was still a small town. They could always fix it up themselves and call upon their own gas station customers who owned construction companies or a specialized skill, because their relationships with local people mattered as much to them as praying to God.
Mom loved to brag on her brothers and sisters, many of whom pursued medical degrees as practicing doctors. She also cherished all of her children so much. The dedicated efforts of her daughter Shirley, and her sister, Singh, helped her run her gas station business that served thousands of customers per week. The people in South Houston could always count on her if they were short on
money, if they needed credit for diesel fuel because they were starting out their trucking business, or if they needed her just as a listening ear because they needed life advice and had no one else to turn to. She lived her last days knowing her oldest son, Barrett, proudly graduated medical school as an interventional radiologist, the first surgeon in the family who is headed to Harvard University for a surgical fellowship program.
When cancer robbed my mother of her precious last years, she never stopped doing what she loved: cooking delicious holiday meals for
her family, playing Elvis records, catching up on the lives of her customers at her store, watering her garden, hunting for antiques, tuning into QVC for their jewelry specials, kissing her grandsons, frying her homemade eggrolls in the kitchen, singing opera music, going out to eat with Dad on Sunday, telling her children to trust in God first, and always bringing out the best in
people because that's just how much she loved all of you. My mother never lost her grace and her dignity in her last breath.
Friends who loved Mom are invited to celebrate her life in South Houston.
A message from her daughter Shirley;. I would like to thank all of the volunteers of St. Augustine who have come to help with my mothers' celebration. You have all been so amazing in this time of need for my family. Thank you again. Also, a special thanks to Fr. Loc Phan who was more than happy to celebrate my mothers funeral.