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Albert Ellis O’Neall (1908-2011)

Engineer, genealogist, father -- and oldest known University of Florida graduate

Albert Ellis O'Neall

Albert Ellis O'Neall was well known to many O'Neall family genealogists. Following the idea of his ancestor, George T. O'Neall, who wrote a biography of their ancestor Abijah O'Neall (1762-1823), Mr O'Neall has written his own autobiogarphy, "The LIfe and Times of Albert Ellis O'Neall". It is a fascinating look at life in a small Ohio town in the early years of the twentieth century. It goes on to later years, World War II and the growth of the state of Florida. But above all, it is told in "Bert's" own words, warm and chatty and fascinating. Click on this link to download a PDF version of it.

Obituary

Albert Ellis O'Neall died Thursday, 13 January 2011, of complications from a broken hip. He was 102.

Mr O’Neall was born on 2 December 1908 in Waynesville, Ohio, into a family of Quakers. Always known to friends and family as Bert, he grew up on the family farm, surrounded by animals, which he loved all his life.

He studied at Antioch College on the co-op plan and graduated from the University of Florida in 1935 as a Civil Engineer. While at Antioch, he participated in four Thorne-Loomis tours, in which young men toured the United States in Ford A-Model trucks, specially fitted with sleeping facilities, food storage, and cooking stoves. The purpose of the program was to encourage college students to visit various activities, including factories, mines and natural wonders, to broaden their knowledge and thereby become better citizens. They traveled to such places as Denver, Yellowstone Park, New Orleans and Chicago. This experience undoubtedly contributed to his decision to give his own family a tour of the western United States in the summer of 1956.

In 1937, Mr O'Neall married Margaret Jean Young.

Even though, as a Quaker, he could have avoided service in the military as a conscientious objector, he joined the U.S. Navy as a civil engineer in May 1943. He received an honorable discharge in 1946, remaining in the Naval Reserve until 1954, at which time he received Honorable Discharge as Lieutenant Commander.

He worked for Smith and Gillespie Engineers in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1949, he and Margaret moved to Orlando, where, in 1952, he opened his own firm, O’Neall and Associates. He sold his firm in the mid-1970s , but continued to do consulting work, including working for the town of Eatonville, for at least another 15 years. For his services to the town, he was made an honorary citizen of Eatonville.

During more than 60 years of living in Orlando, Mr O'Neall not only witnessed the growth of Central Florida, but he also had a hand in a lot of it. As a civil engineer, he worked on water and sewage projects for cities throughout the region. Before anyone knew that Walt Disney World was coming to Central Florida, Mr O'Neall was hired to do engineering on the land. He had no idea what was in store for the property. He also worked on Daytona Beach International Airport.

At the time of his death, Mr O'Neall was the oldest known graduate of the University of Florida, where officials honored him in 2009 as the oldest graduate of the university's College of Engineering. They laid an inscribed brick at the university's bell tower and gave Mr O'Neall a similar brick, which he proudly displayed in his home.

Mr O'Neall had friends in the engineering profession across the country. One colleague called him "the most professional civil engineer he ever knew."

As his daughter Marjie says, "He was polite, and he was respectful. He was an unbelievable family man."

He took up his own mother's interest in genealogy and worked for many years on the O'Neall and related family lines. Many people exchanged information with him and profited from his research and help.

He was a charter member and, later, president of the North Orlando Kiwanis Club. As a student at the University of Florida, he became a member of the Florida Engineering Society and maintained that membership for 70 years. During that time, he served as president of the local and state chapters. Additionally he served as a director of the National Society of Professional Engineers. He was a member of the Central Florida Builders Exchange, President of the Orlando School Bands Association and member of the Florida Textbook Committee.

His wife Margaret died in 2003. He is survived by a son, John (wife, Siv); a daughter, Marjorie O’Neall Eubank (husband, Joe); grandchildren Neall Robinson (Charlie) and Arden Tucker Herrin (Trista); step-grandchildren Jim Eubank (Barbara), Tiffany Parker (Scott), and Caroline Munro (Dave); five great-grandchildren, Tripp, Emma, Arden, Abijah and Phineas; and step-great-grandchildren Avery, Erin, Ty, Little Joe, Bobby and Leah. All will remember him as a sociable, affectionate, enterprising, generous and loving father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

A graveside service was held on Tuesday, January 18, 2011, at 10:30 am, at Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando. At Mr O'Neall's wish, the service was “Quaker-style”, with homages paid by those present.