My father passed away last Thursday.
I am attending his services now, and I will give the full GoogObits treatment to his obituary, but I wanted to make sure I posted it immediately:
Monday, January 31, 2005
By Steve Twedt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
John J. "Jack" O'Neil, a retired addictions counselor and memorable Pittsburgh Post-Gazette letter writer, died of cancer Thursday at his Sewickley home. He was 78.
"He was often called an old curmudgeon, but he was lovable," said his wife, Theodora. "He was very real, and he made numerous friends because he was real."
Mr. O'Neil probably never seemed more real than on those mornings he read something in the newspaper that raised his ire.
"He would leap up from the table and go to the word processor," Theodora O'Neil said. "He could bat out something so fast, I couldn't believe it. The words just flowed from him, especially when he felt strongly about something,"
Often, his entertaining and insightful missives were in response to some other reader's published letter.
In November, for example, he challenged a Post-Gazette letter writer who had called Bob Dylan "the greatest songwriter in history." Mr. O'Neil's response: "Pardon me while I retch."
He further wondered if Post-Gazette editors "are on strike or on drugs" to allow such superlatives in the paper.
"Beethoven wrote his Fifth Symphony almost 200 years ago, and I'll bet that almost 90 percent of the civilized world recognize not only the first three notes of that classic, but every note that follows it. Two hundred years from now, no one will remember how to spell Dylan's name," Mr. O'Neil wrote.
In September 2003, he railed against another writer's objections to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's planned concert for Pope John Paul II. Mr. O'Neil said the writer, who accused the Catholic Church of discrimination against women and gay people, "presents such moronic vituperation and egregious insults I knew I could not reply in kind as I consider myself a member of the human race."
But he could also show his sense of humor. In 1998, responding to a Post-Gazette request for readers to share their turkey disasters, Mr. O'Neil retold the story of a neighborhood Thanksgiving that included a guest who demonstrated his expertise at mixing Manhattans.
"It was quite a sight to see these two young and innocent housewives, who had never had anything more than a Shirley Temple cocktail, sipping their Manhattan -- through a straw, no less," he wrote. The turkey and the two cooks all eventually ended up on the kitchen floor in a chorus of giggles.
But alcohol also played a serious and defining role in Mr. O'Neil's life, from his own problems with it until he stopped drinking in 1973, to his work as a public relations director and addictions counselor at the St. John's Hospital Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Center, North Side, in the early 1980s.
Mrs. O'Neil said her husband took great pride in his 30-plus years of sobriety and in helping others do the same.
After briefly working as a caseworker on drug and alcohol related cases for Children and Youth Services of Beaver County, Mr. O'Neil retired in 1991.
Before St. John's, Mr. O'Neil, a journalism graduate from Duquesne University, had worked in television and radio advertising, later becoming publications manager for Presbyterian University Hospital.
The Homewood native was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and served as a radioman on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.
In addition to his wife, Mr. O'Neil is survived by children from his first marriage, Laurie Good of Livonia, Mich., Kevin James of Chicago, Sean Patrick of Columbus, Ohio, Mark Thomas of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, and Michael Charles, Patrick Brian and Daniel Xavier, all of Chicago.
Also surviving are stepchildren Susan Sebolt of Mt. Lebanon, Stephen Hanzel of Kennett Square, Chester County, and Kate Hanzel of Oakdale; a brother, William O'Neil of Greenfield; 13 grandchildren; one great-grandson; seven step grandchildren; and four step great-grandchildren.
Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at Copeland's Funeral Home, 702 Beaver St., Sewickley. The funeral prayer will be at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow at the funeral home, followed at 10 by the Mass, to be celebrated at St. James Catholic Church, Sewickley. Burial will be in Sewickley Cemetery.
The family requests that memorial contributions be made to Forbes Hospice, 2139 Broadhead Road, Suite 2A Rear, Aliquippa 15001.