John O'Neill, 80, and Margaret T. O'Neill, 80, die at home, a day apart in River Forest


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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

Loving couple John O'Neill, a leading real estate broker and insurance agent for many decades in Oak Park and River Forest, and his beloved wife, Margaret T. O'Neill, 80, died of natural causes in their River Forest home on July 29 and July 30, respectively.

In the 1970s, Mr. O'Neill purchased F.C. Pilgrim & Co. real estate from John Pilgrim, son of the founder Francis Pilgrim.  Mr. O'Neill merged his established insurance agency into Pilgrim.  In later years several members of Mr. O'Neill's large family took on key roles at Pilgrim.

Between the Pilgrim family and the O'Neill family, the firm had had just the two owners in more than a century in business.

Born December 26, 1934, Mr. O'Neill was also a deacon at St. Luke Catholic Church in River Forest for many years.

In June 2011, F.C. Pilgrim was acquired by Chicago-based Baird & Warner, merging the two companies into one business.

In a Wednesday Journal column at the time of the sale, Dan Haley wrote that "Maintaining friendships is clearly vital to John O'Neill and looking out for his staff was on his mind in making this deal."  He quoted Mr. O'Neill as saying, "I've had a wonderful relationship with my people.  I value that more than anything else."

Born November 2, 1934, besides being the "grand dame" of the O'Neill clan, Mrs. O'Neill was an active member of her parish, helping with the Caring and Sharing program, which was an effort to give food and other assistance to people in need.

Ever proud of their Irish and Catholic heritage, the pride and joy of John and Margaret nee Barrett O'Neill was their many children and extended family:  Patty (Frank) Baker, John (Pat), Peggy (Jack) Gleason, Michael (Margie), Mary (Joe) Bresnahan, Carol, Molly (Van) Conroy and Danny (Cathy) O'Neill; cherished grandparents of John Francis (Julie) and Mark (fiancée Jenna Cluver) Baker, Kelly (Jon) Thielbar and Kevin and Erin O'Neill, Colleen (Joel) Thielen and Patrick Gleason, Mary Loretta, Bridget, Kathleen and Molly O'Neill, Michael, Mariclaire and Matthew Bresnahan, Michael, Margaret Mary, Madeline and Colleen Stephany, Jack and Andy Conroy, and Charlie and Daniel O'Neill. They were also blessed with their great-granddaughter Maura Baker.  John was preceded in death by his siblings: Emmett (Margaret Mary) and Bob (Pat) O'Neill and Maureen (Harry) Crawford.  Margaret was preceded in death by her siblings: John, Tom (Lynn), Tony (the late Claudette) and Jim (Mary) Barrett.

A joint visitation is scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m. on Friday, July 31 at Drechsler Brown & Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion Street in Oak Park.

Their funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 1, at St. Luke Church, 7600 Lake St., River Forest.

There will be a private interment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations to St. Luke Church (, Fenwick High School in Oak Park ( or Trinity High School in River Forest ( are appreciated. 

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