William T. O’Neill of Williamsburg, retired executive at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, has passed away at the age of 98. The family will receive friends Sunday, April 7 at 5 PM at Bucktrout Funeral Home in Williamsburg. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Bede’s Roman Catholic Church Monday April 8 at 11 AM with burial to follow.
Bill’s story is the American story. Bill was born in 1920 in New York City to Irish immigrant parents, William and Minnie O’Neill. Bill spent his childhood in the City and Lake Peekskill, NY, where his parents had a summer home. Bill attended the City schools and after high school graduation was working as a shipfitter.
Bill joined the Navy soon after the start of World War 2 where he was assigned to the amphibious fleet. He was rated a quartermaster and served on landing craft in both the Atlantic and Pacific campaigns. He participated in the assaults on Sicily, Salerno and Normandy, where Bill took some memorable photographs of the early fighting on Omaha Beach. In the Pacific, Bill served on LST-901, advancing to the rank of Chief for a brief time. Bill’s LST-901 shipmates remained friends for some decades after the war, with frequent reunions until too few were left.
After the war Bill returned to the Bronx where he soon had the great good fortune of meeting the love of his life, Cynthia Berenguer. They married and started a family that reached six children: William, Stephen, James, Kathleen, Laura and Randolph. Bill’s sister Josephine and brother Bob also had large broods and the family well remembers summer weekends with up to 17 cousins chasing around.
Bill graduated as an Industrial Engineer from NYU and went to work at Colgate Palmolive’s Jersey City factory. In 1962 he was offered the job of chief industrial engineer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which required a family move to England. After five years, Bill took a new position with International Telephone and Telegraph in New York and returned the family to New Jersey.
Looking for a greater challenge, in 1974 Bill joined Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company as chief financial officer and made his final family move to Williamsburg, Virginia. Bill’s career at NNS&DDC involved leadership positions in many of the shipyard’s operations. During this time of transition, Bill was deeply involved in strategic planning, financial management, defense contracting, new technology adoption in design and construction, and in resolving contractual disputes with the Navy. After his retirement, he was asked to stay on as a consultant to help transition to new leadership in legal, marketing and corporate communications.
Bill also served the community as Rector Emeritus of Christopher Newport University, board member at Mary Immaculate Hospital and as a board member or advisor to many other local organizations.
After his family, Bill’s greatest love was playing golf, a habit he developed while at NNS. Bill’s first boss, was an avid golfer, and the best way to get time with him was to learn the game. Bill quickly got hooked, and after retirement he would play a round almost every day.
Bill suffered two great losses during his time in Virginia. First was the loss of his eldest daughter Kathleen to a tragic workplace accident. Then came the loss of Cynthia early in 2004, which left an unfillable gap in his and his family’s lives.
Bill is survived by his five children, eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren and his close friend Rosin Clark. They all miss Poppy and will always remember him with love.
Saint Bede Catholic Church - Directions
3686 Ironbound Road
Williamsburg, VA 23188
Cedar Grove Cemetery - Directions
809 S. Henry Street
Williamsburg, VA 23185
5:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Bucktrout Funeral Home - Directions
4124 Ironbound Road
Williamsburg, VA 23188