John A. O'Neill
John Anthony O'Neill, known as John to most and as Anthony to his long-time Avon friends, passed away peacefully on February 8, 2017. John was born to John Hayes and Loretta (Shea) O'Neill at his family homestead in Avon, where he spent the majority of his 88 years. John was a good-natured gentleman who always had a kind word to say and was ever ready to lend a helping hand. He was raised in the Catholic faith, which, along with his strong sense of civic pride and duty, informed his actions throughout his life. He attended Cromwell Preparatory School in Lenox, MA, and General Motors Institute of Technology, Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, graduating in 1950. John was married to Kathleen (Kay) O'Neill in 1951, and was married to Kay for 61 years, until her death in 2013. John started working as a teen at O'Neill's Chevrolet-Buick, a dealership started by his father in 1921. After attending the GM Institute, John returned to run the business with his father. Shortly after his return, his father became ill, and passed in the late 50s. The dealership was then sold, which allowed John to pursue his passion for flying. With his wife Kay, and later his daughter Heidi, he traveled the United States, visiting family and friends in his Tri-Pacer 4462 Alpha. One of his most memorable adventures in the early 60s was when he pulled his small plane in at Love Field in Dallas to see that he was parked alongside President Kennedy's Air Force One. In the mid-60s, John sold his plane to focus on his hometown Avon. He worked maintaining his family's buildings in the town's center. In the late 60s, he broke ground at 15 Enford Street to build the Avon Post Office. It was completed in 1968, with an addition in 1973. During this time John also served on the Zoning Board of Appeals and became involved with the Avon Historical Society. John also put his construction skills to good use, making a replica of a Canal Boat for the 1976 Bicentennial and helping his daughter's high school classmates build floats for their homecoming parade. In 1974 he joined the Avon Water Company. In this capacity he was able to serve his town and community for the rest of his life. He began at the company as the Second Vice President and Treasurer, and became President in 1981. He served as President until 2007, then as a Director until 2014. Throughout his life John was an active member of the Church of St. Ann in Avon. He was a daily communicant, serving on the Social Action Committee and participating in the Saturday Morning Men's Group. As the owner of a battered and much loved truck, dubbed the Silver Bullet, he could always be counted on to help move families, furniture or food. He served with the Prison Association, visiting men in prison and distributing toys to their families at Christmas. In addition, he worked with the Samaritans, the Hartford Catholic Worker, and visited hospice patients. John was also active at the Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford. He was President of the Retreat League from 1980-84 and attended over 50 retreats. His community involvement led to his being named Man of the Year during Avon Day ceremonies in 2008. John enjoyed life and loved to travel. He and his wife Kay made frequent trips to Ireland. They also visited Italy, London, Jerusalem, Paris, and Barcelona, and cruised the Mediterranean. His sister Mary was a long-time resident of Brazil, and John and Kay had many enjoyable trips to Sao Paulo to visit with her. Avon remained John's home and favored place to be, however. After his retirement in 2007, he could often be seen walking on the bike trail near Sperry Park, greeting people while doing his usual two miles up and two miles back. John Anthony O'Neill was seen by all who knew him as a kind, gentle man who possessed a sea of generosity that seemed to know no bounds. One of his fondest sayings was "Be honest; true happiness comes in serving others!" He will be sorely missed by all who knew him, loved him, and were forever changed by his presence. John was predeceased by his sister Mary (O'Neill) Pulford, and is survived by his daughter Kathleen (Heidi) O'Neill, his son-in-law Stephen Williams and his granddaughter Maeve Williams of Northampton, MA. Friends may call at the Church of St. Ann, 289 Arch Road, Avon on Monday, February 13 from 4-7 pm and again on Tuesday, February 14 from 9:30-10:30 am. On Tuesday, February 14, Family Words of Remembrance will begin at 10:40 am and will be followed by the Funeral Liturgy, at 11 am in the Church of St. Ann. Burial will be in family plot at St. Ann Cemetery, Avon. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in John's name to: The Holy Family Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road, West Hartford, CT 06107, www.holyfamilyretreat.org/donate . Arrangements are being handled by The Ahern Funeral Homes, Inc. www.ahernfuneralhome.com .
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