Steve O'NeilSteve O'Neil, 63, died in his home on July 16, 2013, surrounded by loved ones following a short battle with anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Steve O'Neil, 63, died in his home on July 16, 2013, surrounded by loved ones following a short battle with anaplastic thyroid cancer.
In addition to his many accomplishments as a community organizer and County Commissioner, Steve will be remembered for being a devoted and loving husband, father, brother, uncle, friend and foster parent. He inspired and mentored countless people and encouraged them to take action to make the world a more compassionate and just place. He was a bright light, a witty prankster, a gentle spirit, a visionary servant leader, a catalyst for social change, and a man of deep faith. He always made the people around him feel listened to and important. Steve saw each person as a unique child of God and treated everyone as a valuable part of our beloved community. He was kind and took time to listen even if he disagreed with their point of view. The words of Micah 6:8 guided and inspired his actions daily; "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God."
Steve grew up in Chicago, where his passion for organizing began at the age of five when he founded a neighborhood animal club to help injured and lost animals. He came to Duluth to get his Master's Degree in Social Work at the University of Minnesota Duluth in the 1970s. He taught Social Work classes and challenged his students to address poverty, homelessness, inequality and injustice. In 1983, Steve and Angie moved to Washington DC to join the Community for Creative Non-Violence where his passion for addressing homelessness was ignited. Upon returning to Minnesota, he worked for the Land Stewardship Project for several years and led campaigns to stop family farm foreclosures. In 1989, Angie and Steve founded the Loaves and Fishes Community and shared their home and lives for six years with people in need of housing. His passion for ensuring everyone had a place to live regardless of income was demonstrated through his community organizing, advocacy and housing creation. Many of those organizations still provide critical services today; Loaves and Fishes Catholic Worker Community, Center City Housing, CHUM, Neighborhood Housing Services, and Northern Communities Land Trust, now One Roof Community Housing. Later in his career, he worked with the American Lung Association and was proud of his work to create smoke-free workplaces in Duluth. One constant throughout the chapters of his life was his many long-standing friendships with, and advocacy for, people living in poverty.
Steve was passionate about the outdoors and protecting the environment. He loved canoeing in the Boundary Waters, hiking the Superior Hiking Trail, cross country skiing, growing vegetables with his wife Angie and challenging his children to sprinting races. He planted thousands of trees throughout Northeastern Minnesota. He travelled extensively in the United States and abroad, and no matter where he was, he often ran into people he knew.
He was preceded in death by his father, William O'Neil, brother, Jimmy O'Neil, and sister Barb Duffy.
Steve is survived by his wife of 32 years, Angie Miller, daughter, Brianna Waldoch (Brian), son Brendan Miller-O'Neil, mother Dolores O'Neil, siblings Janet O'Neil (Steve Nold), William O'Neil Jr. (Mary), Beth O'Neil (Susan McConnell), Sharon Gainer (Jim), Sheila O'Neil (Pete Whalen) and many beloved nieces and nephews and countless friends.
Steve's family feels eternally grateful for the amazing doctors and nurses that were part of our lives over the last six months. In particular, we would like to thank Dr. Keith Bible, Oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, for his compassionate care, sense of humor and hours of time.
VISITATION: 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday in Peace United Church of Christ, 1111 N. 11th Ave. E., Duluth. A celebration of Steve's life will be at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Symphony Hall at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center — all are welcome! Pastor Kathy Nelson will be leading the service. In lieu of flowers, memorials to CHUM for the Family Shelter Capital Campaign (102 W. Second St., Duluth, MN 55802) are preferred.
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