John O'Neill Obituary

John J. O'Neill
John J. O'Neill

March 16, 1940 - March 25, 2021
Born in New London, CT
Resided in Waterford, Connecticut


John J. O’Neill Sr., 81, of Waterford, Connecticut, sadly left us quickly and unexpectedly on March 25, 2021.

Born in New London, Connecticut to the late John F. and Mary O’Neill on March 16, 1940, he was a lifetime resident of this area. John attended New London schools and met some of his closest lifelong friends, including Jack Cutillo.

After graduating from New London High School in 1959, John entered the Connecticut Army National Guard and served honorably with the 1111 Transportation Company for 5 years earning the rank of SPC 5. He was extremely proud to serve our great state and nation.

John married his wife, Marguerite, on February 20, 1976 at the Harkness Chapel at Connecticut College in New London, CT. They provided a loving home to raise their family of six children in East Lyme, and later retired in Waterford, CT.

John was well respected as the president and owner of O’Neill Sailmakers, a master of the trade for more than fifty years. Early in his career he apprenticed at the former Rice’s Sail Loft in Niantic and at Sobstad Sails in Old Saybrook. During those early formative years, he quickly learned that personal service coupled with carefully designed and superbly built sails would be the foundation of his own sail making business. He constantly tested new laminate fabric forms including Kevlar, Technora, and Mylar, and pushed the limitations of both offshore and inshore design with handmade tri-radial and cruising spinnakers. As a talented sailor himself, he often raced with the owners of his new sails, undertaking voyages to far reaches of the Atlantic including the Newport to Bermuda Race and Off Soundings Race Series. He pioneered innovative alternatives as the newest adventure athletes of the 1970’s pursued hang gliding and ice sailing, providing expertise that others had been unable to do before. In his words, “as a sailor, the greatest pleasure is to set sail”, and his intention was always to enable others to enjoy that pleasure.

After retiring, he continued drafting and designing sails, and taking trips to nearby vessels on behalf of Neil Pryde to take measurements. He travelled across the state to attend various antique car shows and never turned down the opportunity to be outside, despite even the harshest of weather conditions. He loved photography, reading, skiing, and hunting. His knowledge of waterfowl, marine life, natural weather phenomena, and American history rivaled any textbook; his love for animals was unparalleled. He attended hundreds of sporting events, from football playoffs to lacrosse tournaments, across the state of Connecticut and on to Vermont. “Fuzz” rarely missed the opportunity to attend a school event of his children and grandchildren, proudly donning their school colors and enthusiastically leading the cheering section. His love of the New England Patriots never wavered either, even with a grandson rooting for the Jets. He and Marguerite enjoyed traveling; their favorites being over 40 years of winter trips to Puerto Rico and to the coast of Maine.

In addition to his wife Marguerite of 45 years, John is survived by five children; predeceased by his son Jim. His children John J. O’Neill Jr. and his wife Meegan, their daughter Ivy, and grandchildren Silas and Penelope; Dennis and Joan Welch and their children Ryan and Patrick; Ron Welch and his children Stephen, Katie, and Ethan; Mindy Welch and her children Sarah and Mike; Tom O’Neill and his wife Lynnette and children Marshall and Liam; and Freya O’Neill with her children Ocean and Skylar.

A graveside service with military honors will be held at 11:00 am on April 1, 2021 at Elm Grove Cemetery in 197 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, Connecticut. There will be no calling hours.

Due to COVID 19 regulations, we ask that those in attendance be mindful of social distancing and wear a mask at all times.

The Thomas L. Neilan & Sons Funeral Home, 48 Grand St., Niantic is assisting the family with the arrangements. Online condolences may be shared with the O’Neill family at




Graveside Service
Elm Grove Cemetery
197 Greenmanville Ave
Mystic, CT US 06355
Thursday, April 1, 2021
11:00 AM

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