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Respect shown for community "legend"

Tuesday, 5th April, 2011

MOURNERS: More than a hundred people attended yesterday’s funeral service for Bill O’Neil. MOURNERS: More than a hundred people attended yesterday’s funeral service for Bill O’Neil.

By John Casey
Managing Editor

Those who knew William Sidney "Bill" O'Neil well came to Sacred Heart Cathedral to say goodbye yesterday.

There were those who loved him, such as partner Dallas and family members. There were those who admired him, including union stalwarts and work colleagues from the mining industry. There were those who were inspired by him for his tireless efforts for organisations as diverse as the Broken Hill Hospital to the amateur swimming club.

And while there was a wide range of emotions being felt at yesterday's funeral service there was one thing that every single mourner had it common - they respected him.

They respected Bill O'Neil for who he was and what he had done for Broken Hill.

"It's a very sad day for Broken Hill because Bill O'Neil will go down as a legend of this community," former BH Mayor and now Central Darling Shire Councillor Ron Page said.

"Bill had enormous reserves of courage and always stood up for Broken Hill, that's why it will be such a huge loss to the city because not many people possess the type of courage that Bill O'Neil had," he added.

Mourners also spoke of Bill being a very tolerant man. Others remembered his "hearty laugh", some commented on his steadfast approach.

More than 100 mourners were there to pay their respects. Among them, Barrier Industrial Council President Danny O'Connor and CFMEU Vice-President

Greg Braes. Numerous union officials who served alongside Bill O'Neil such as Eddie and John Butcher and Pat Leonard stood side by side.

Mayor Wincen Cuy and City Council General Manager Frank Zaknich attended with a number of other Councillors. ALP local branch president Neville Gasmier was also there.

Leading businessman Gary Radford and BH Hospital chief executive Stuart Riley also paid their respects.

The gathering was told how Bill and his late Dad "Shorty" O'Neil supported the Central Football Club and would go and watch the Magpies play in Broken Hill. Bill was also fond of Collingwood in the AFL.

It seemed somewhat incongruous that Bill's two footy teams wore black and white, because life was far from that for him.

"One of Bill's great strengths was that he was always prepared to listen," a friend of the family confided.

"He always listened to everyone's point of view and was always prepared to give his own point of view as well," she added with a smile.

Just before the pall bearers performed their solemn duties the "Community Voices" delivered a stirring rendition of the union standard "The Red Flag".

They had sung the same song at Shorty O'Neil's funeral 11 years before.

As she prepared to follow the casket out of the church, Bill's partner Dallas turned and applauded the choir. It obviously meant a lot.

Much like Bill O'Neil did to Broken Hill.

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