MARGARET W. (PEG) O’NEILL
Margaret W. O’Neill, known affectionately to her friends as “Peg” and her family as “Nunnie,” passed away on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at in Scarborough Terrace, with her family by her side. She was born in Biddeford, Maine, on August 16, 1924, the daughter of Frank and Julia Daly Welch. Margaret attended Biddeford schools, graduating from Biddeford High School in 1942.
Margaret married William (Will) J. O’Neill on January 18, 1945, at St. Mary’s Church in Biddeford, while Will was on a two-week leave from serving his country in the United States Navy during WWII. The couple met when William, who attended Saco schools, saw Margaret, a cheerleader for the Biddeford Tigers, across a crowded football field. Margaret and William enjoyed a deeply loving and devoted marriage of 61 years, until his death in 2006.
After the end of the war, Margaret sought to further her education and career. While living and teaching in Fort Kent, Maine, she worked at the Task Training School for Handicapped Children. There, in her own words, her “goal for life was set – (she) would work with Special Needs children as a career.” She and Will also took advantage of their beautiful surroundings, and spent a great deal of time camping and exploring the Maine woods.
Margaret and Will had two children, Joseph Michael and Maureen, and the family moved to Connecticut in the late 1960s, where she worked and studied at the University of Connecticut. There, she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in English in 1967 and a Master’s Degree in Special Education in 1969. She later worked as a teacher for Special Needs and Learning Disabled students in Danielson and Brooklyn, Connecticut. She also served as chairperson of the Democratic Town Committee in Brooklyn, Connecticut.
Margaret returned to Southern Maine with her family in 1975, serving as the Director of Special Education in the Old Orchard Beach school system, where she was awarded Teacher of the Year for Old Orchard Beach in 1979. In 1987, Margaret and Will, also a passionate educator, coordinated their retirements for the same day, and departed that very evening to fly to Europe, marking the beginning of their extensive annual travels around the globe in their shared retirement. In addition to destinations in Europe including Poland, Malta, Greece, Russia and Ireland, Margaret and Will also traveled to China, never tiring in their quest for adventure and knowledge.
Despite the thrill of visiting new corners of the globe, Margaret, a devoted and caring mother and grandmother to her two children and three grandchildren, was happiest when she was with her family. She and Will spent many happy golden years in their cozy home at Fortunes Rocks, Biddeford, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, where they were fond of rising each morning, no matter the weather, to share a walk along the beach at dawn.
Margaret cared for Will with her characteristic quiet strength, devotion and unyielding positivity in the final years of his life. After his death, she lived for several years with her daughter and son-in-law in Biddeford, and then in assisted living facilities in Saco and Scarborough, where she was known for her warmth, good humor, and as the life of every party. In her final years, Margaret enjoyed watching and cheering for all New England sports teams, especially the Boston Red Sox. Her sparkling sense of humor never waned, nor did her adventurous spirit. Even after her 90th birthday, she loved trying new things, whether it was sushi for the first time, or going for a spin in an open-top Land Cruiser equipped with racing harnesses instead of seat belts. She was always quick to offer candy to visitors or to tell relatives on the other end of a phone call to “reverse the charges.” Her twinkling blue eyes and wonderful laugh will never fade from the memories of those who loved her.
Margaret was predeceased by parents, Julia and Francis A. Welch, and brothers, Francis and Robert Welch. She is survived by her loving family; son, Joseph Michael of Manchester, Connecticut; daughter Maureen Butler and her husband James, of Dayton, Maine, grandchildren Julia M. Butler, of Boston, Mass.; Samuel W. Butler, Captain, U.S. Army, Fort Benning, GA and John R. Butler, of Stoughton, Mass. She is now reunited with her beloved husband, Will, who preceded her in death on July 26th, 2006.
Visiting hours will be held from 4 Pm to 7 Pm, Friday March 8th, at Bibber Memorial Chapel, 67 Summer Street, Kennebunk, ME. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, March 9th at 10 am at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, in Biddeford.
In lieu of flowers, those who wish, may make a contribution in Margaret’s memory to: RSU#23, Special Education, C/O Helene Stevens, 40 E Emerson Cummings Blvd, Old Orchard Beach, Maine 04064
To leave condolence wishes, the family invites you to visit www.bibbermemorial.com
To share a memory or leave a message of condolence, please visit Margaret’s Book of Memories page at www.bibberfuneral.com.