J. Philip “Phil” O’Neil, 90, peacefully said goodbye on February 1, 2023. Born January 8, 1933 in Akron, OH, he was the youngest of eight children to the late Augustin and Marie O’Neil. He is preceded in death by siblings Mary, Robert (Margaret), James (Mary Helen), Patience, Donal (Barbara), Alice Gaffney (Frank) and Margaret Freer (Harry). His favorite pastimes as a child were building blocks and books, a precursor to architecture and a lifelong love of learning and reading. After St. Sebastian grade school in Akron, he became part of the inaugural class of Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, OH, where, as a resident student, he honed his sense of humor with classmates who became lasting friends. He graduated in 1950 and followed his father’s and brothers’ path to The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, graduating with a double major in Math and English in 1954. He graduated from Western Reserve University School of Architecture after his years in the United States Navy.
His love of building was first realized as a Naval Architect, stationed as a LTJG from 1954-1958, in Newport, RI; Bremerton, WA; and Guam where he designed massive scaffolding for ships going in to dry dock. He often quipped that he “saw the world on the US’ dime,” followed by a grin and a “thank you.” Upon discharge, he drove his 1958 MGA from Seattle back to Akron OH.
In 1964, Phil met Mary Karen Killeen in Cleveland, and they were married for 54 years. Every great love story has surprising and beautiful discoveries, and
they would later learn that their immigrant ancestors lived 20 miles from each other in County Cork, Ireland. A highlight of his life was befriending his Irish relatives, and eventually gaining dual citizenship with Ireland. Phil and Mary Karen loved to travel, read, play gin rummy, and sit in their hammock chairs together on the porch. He was a supportive and loving father to Kate, Sarah and Ann Marie, showing love in both his actions and words.
Phil’s long career encompassed residential and commercial architecture. Establishing a firm in the late 70s, he became the go-to guy for architecture work in the ever-evolving Village of Chagrin Falls. There is no place in the Village where you can stand, spin around, and not see several of his commissions. A frequent presenter to the Planning and Zoning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals, he also served on the Architectural Review Board.
He loved the community of the Village and was a fixture at 33-35 River Street office complex which he designed and built, the Chagrin Falls Library, Philips Marathon, Rick’s Café with his Lunch Bunch and later Lemon Falls. Stopping at Chagrin Hardware was not just an errand, it was a hobby. He was an everyday MacGyver and loved the challenge of fixing things – anything, anywhere. Nothing gave him more joy than tinkering on a tractor, saving a dollar by fixing something himself, or calling on friends to help with projects in his barn.
Phil was active in his faith and embodied what he believed through his temperament, kindness, willingness to lend a hand, and compassion for others. He was very involved at St. Joan of Arc Parish, sending his daughters to school there, and later worshipped at Our Lady of Peace at Shaker Square.
Coming from a large family was his pride and joy, as he adored his siblings, 41 nieces and nephews, three grandsons and the family “out-laws”. He performed hundreds of family home inspections over the years and gave both solicited and unsolicited design advice. He was a social butterfly, despite a quiet nature. He was kind, funny, smart, and accepting, qualities that yielded a wide circle of friends. This was most apparent during his last weeks, as a steady stream of visitors told stories, laughed, and cherished another sit-down with Phil.
His blue eyes and bright smile will be missed.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Phil suggested to Our Lady of Peace Food Pantry, 12503 Buckingham Ave., Cleveland, OH 44120; or to Hospice of the Western Reserve, P.O. Box 72101, Cleveland, OH 44192. Family will receive friends on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, from 10 – 11 AM at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church (Shaker Blvd.). Mass of Christian Burial following at 11 AM. Private interment in All Saints Cemetery. Arrangements entrusted to THE DeJOHN-FLYNN-MYLOTT FUNERAL HOME OF SOUTH EUCLID.