Stephen Patrick O’Neill, 66, Vero Beach
Stephen Patrick O’Neill, 66, of Vero Beach, died Tuesday of complications from a pernicious neurological disease that gradually stole his body but never managed to take his sarcastic wit or, better, his appreciation for his own humor. In fact, he had himself and his wife of 13 years, Denise O’Neill, chuckling in their Vero Beach home just minutes before he passed.
This isn’t to say the husband, father, pop-pop, brother, uncle, cousin and friend was all jokes, all the time. He wasn’t. He was a detail freak – a quality first nurtured by the U.S. Navy during his six years as a sonar technician and then honed and hardened during his career as a journalist, editor and corporate communicator. (Notice the absence in that last sentence of the Oxford comma as per the Associated Press’ style guide; he would be proud.)
He was an all-or-nothing-kind-of guy. If he were dieting, he’d use a knife to level-off his portion of brown rice against the edge of an aluminum measuring cup. And if he wasn’t, he ate his ice cream by the carton, in one sitting – the particular flavor not so important.
But nowhere was his uncompromising spirit more evident than in his art. He was a talented artist across many mediums; although, he’d rarely show you his work without offering his critique at the same time.
He made a career off the strength of his writing, and he won awards for the pictures that he took while travelling with his family. His lens mostly gravitated toward landscapes and architecture, and he often saw shapes and angles before he saw object or color.
One of his pictures – a silhouetted tractor against a reddening dawn sky – graced the cover of a country music album. And more recent photos were juried in local and state competitions, drawing praise and sometimes ribbons from places like the Vero Beach Museum of Art and the A.E. Backus Museum of Art.
His art and, more notably, his artistic talent is chief among the legacy he leaves behind to his kids and grandchildren, many of whom write, sketch, sing, strum, take pictures and consider artistic expression a core part of who they are.
While he was often more comfortable photographing and observing people than he was chitchatting and engaging in the events around him, he adored his family and had no social shyness when it came to bragging about the talents and accomplishments of his kids and grandkids.
These generations and other family members who lovingly remember him include his wife, Denise O’Neill; her children and their spouses, Jill Thomas (Sean Tucker) and Garett Thomas (Kristen); his children and their spouses, Dan O’Neill (Carina), Laura Locke (David), Tim O’Neill (Roisin); his 13 grandchildren, ranging in age from 14 years to 10 months, Bella, Nathan, Brock, Emily, Mia, Delaney, Clara, Shane, Marigrace, Ainsley, Savannah, Evangeline and Annalee; his brother and sister and their spouses, Michael O’Neill (Ann) and Kathleen Sims (Danny); his niece, Anna Sims (Cliff Haimann); and his scads of beloved cousins and their families from the Greater Baltimore area.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m., Wednesday, May 30, at Holy Cross Catholic Church, at 500 Iris Lane in Vero Beach.
In lieu of flowers, consider memorial donations to The MSA Coalition, a nonprofit focused on finding a cure to the neurodegenerative disorder that took him.