Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Seamus Oneal: Renaissance Man, Beloved Family Member and Partner

Seamus Oneal was one of the victims of the 9/11 tragedy, and deserves to be honored and remembered for his tremendous contributions to humanity and to his family. As you look at the picture of Seamus, you notice first his warm and friendly gaze. He is an attractive man, but more than the nice eyes and warm smile, he just appears to be the kind of guy who would give you advice, perhaps offer you something to drink and certainly offer kind words.

This we know: Seamus Oneal lives in American History as one of those who fell victim to a profoundly terrible act against humanity, the 9/11 attack in New York City, New York, on September 11th 2001. Despite the horror of that event, we choose, as Americans, to honor our people with pride and love. To that end, I wish to honor and remember Seamus Oneal.

He was the proud father of three children who miss him tremendously, and partner to Tom Miller, who considered Oneal a hero.

Oneal worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, a financial firm. When his children visited him at work, apparently he was proud to introduce them to his co-workers and show them the views of the city.

Oneal graduated from the University of Baltimore in 1997 with a master's degree, and a Memorial Garden honors his death, and that of two other graduates.

Oneal was a renaissance man in the sense that he seemed to live so many different lives; he was an actor, a composer of music, a father, a bed & breakfast owner, and of course, now lives in our collective memories and will be honored forever as one of the many who fell to the 9/11 tragedy. However, the bigger and more important story here is how he was loved and honored by his children and his partner in their most heartfelt writing, published on the Cantor Fitzgerald website.

Elen, Isaac, and Anna Oneal, children of this apparently amazing gentleman, posted this tribute to their beloved father, and I find it moving beyond words. I think you will too:

We lost a wonderful father when the World Trade Center collapsed on that horrible day in September. He was 52 years old, and Manager of Customer Integration at eSpeed. Dad was so vibrant and full of life; he always talked as if he would live forever. Working for Cantor Fitzgerald was like a dream come true for him. He was so proud of his office, and loved introducing us to all his co-workers and showing us the fantastic view. He had as many careers as such a multi-talented person could expect to have; he was an actor, social worker, an officer in the military, and a composer of beautiful choral and symphonic music. But most important to him was his relationship with us, his children, and to us, he was a great dad. We always knew how much he loved us. He didn't like ending phone conversations without saying so. We could tell him anything, and he would not judge us. He believed in each of us as separate, unique individuals and was constantly encouraging us to be the best we could. He wanted us to be happy, and was content to let us choose our own paths. We knew he worried a lot about us. We tried to let him know that everything would be okay, that we would be okay. He would always promise us that he would live until he was 106, and we believed him. We never imagined that we would lose him so soon. And as much as he loved his children, Dad also loved his partner, Tom. Tom was one of the most wonderful things ever to happen to Dad. Tom has always been a loyal, caring friend and ally. We are so grateful to him for everything he has done for Dad and for us.We were so unprepared to lose you, Dad. We feel your absence in everything. At family gatherings sometimes there is a pause as we look around, waiting for the missing person to arrive. A moment passes, and we realize we have been waiting for you. We loved the way you laughed, the way your eyes crinkled up when you smiled. Some of our memories are so simple: tickle fights when we were younger, visiting Civil War battlefields, walking around New York together, going out for dinner. Without your voice, our world is so much quieter. When you died, the world became a little flatter, less joyful. Without your presence, we feel a missing link. We miss you, Daddy. We love you always (http://www.cantorfamilies.com/).

The tribute written by Seamus's partner is every bit as moving, and is published on the same website:

At the most cynical time of my life, when I was smugly certain that I knew what life was about, I encountered a most remarkable man.Seamus Oneal was remarkable in two ways. His 52 years encompassed an astonishing spectrum of pursuits and interests. Unafraid at any point to change careers totally, his life was a list of divergent, successful achievements. He was an accomplished composer and musician, military officer, computer specialist, office administrator, bed and breakfast proprietor, and home-schooled his eldest daughter. But above all he was a loving father and partner, a man whose profound love of family and humanity eclipsed his personal needs or wants. The depth of his devotion for his three children is incalculable.In an attempt to relieve the suffering of others, he volunteered himself as a human test subject for an AIDS vaccine. His financial support of chosen charities was consistent.More notable, however, was his passion for life. Seamus understood fully how sumptuous and precious life is. He took nothing for granted and intended to taste and feel and hear all life had to offer. His zeal for living was contagious, but no one could equal his ability to live as fully as he did.Seamus wanted only three things in return. He wanted to be loved. He wanted to take care of those he loved. And he wanted to live a long and full lifeI learned much from Seamus. I learned that a man is not defined by his career, a career is merely one means of increasing the man. I learned that age and maturity are not driven by the amount of years a man has lived, but by what he has learned in life. He taught me that old age is not inevitable, it is a state of mind, as is youth. And he taught me that true love cannot have boundaries, walls or limits ? love must be complete, unconditional and unselfish. And most importantly he showed me that life is rich and lush, to be fully savored without timidity.One Monday morning in August I left a card for Seamus to find. On the cover was a vintage black-and-white photograph of a little boy in shorts running home with a long loaf of bread under his arm. Inside I wrote, 'You know why this card reminded me of you? Because you're my hero.' We lost a lot of heroes on September 11. This one was very special to many of us.The world has too few Seamus Oneals and this one was stolen from us far too early. He was not done living. My life is completely changed for having known him. He was not only, as one of his Cantor Fitzgerald associates said to me, "the finest man I ever knew?, he was one of the most remarkable men I have ever known " a man of unlimited range of interest, intellect and talent; a man who singularly understood the intensity of life and lived it passionately. Seamus showed me the true joy there is in living, in loving and in being loved. I know he will be with me as I complete that life he touched so profoundly.
Tom Miller, Partner

Tom, I hope that you read this remembrance of Seamus and know that my heart feels your loss deeply. I pray that you are moving forward, and that each day brings a bit more comfort, and a bit less pain.

I will include a moving remembrance of Seamus written recently by one of his bosses, Jennie Barret of Manasses, Virgina:

July 07, 2008
Even though the years have passed, I find myself thinking of Seamus often. I had the fortunate experience of having Seamus work for me just before he made the transition out of the DC area to New York. Seamus was a true, strong, hardworking man with the heart of gold and integrity that would go on forever. I will treasure knowing him as an employee and meeting him as a fun-loving individual. The image I will have always burnt into my memory of him is the day he came to work and stood in my cubical wearing a kilt. That is a proud and honest man. I will always think of him and will continue to miss him. He brought joy to those around him and made the world a better place for it ()

Her memory of his wearing a kilt to work, and her specific words of "fun-loving" and "joy" teach me that Seamus Oneal was a man who truly knew how to live, how to treat others, how to prioritize values and inspire others.

I recall some advice given me some decades back by a dear friend. He noted that I was often depressed over the loss of a beloved brother, and gave me this advice: "Don't grieve his death; he lived so joyfully...learn from that, and remember the happiness. He wouldn't want you to grieve long. Be happy, as he would have wanted you to do that...". If I can offer any solace to those who grieve for Seamus, it would be that this handsome fellow apparently lived with great joy. That is one gift he gave all of you.

Today, I honor your memory, Seamus O'Neal. The world is a better place for people who inspire their loved ones, and we will not forget you. You truly knew how to live, and your full and rich life inspires us still. Thank you.

Information for this tribute was collected from several online sources. I welcome any and all additional information about Seamus Oneal, and will gladly ammend or edit any notes as requested by family. Debra Harman, 2009.

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