Billie Don O'Neal (Don) was born on April 15, 1928 in Jones County, Texas to William Andrew O'Neal and Charlotte O'Neal. His birthplace was some 7-8 miles NE of Hamlin, Texas on a cotton Farm.|
Don is survived by his wife of 47 years, the former Melanie Ann (Lani) Lee of Wellsville, New York and Pasadena Texas. Two sons, Barry (wife Linda) and William and (wife Susan) of two former marriages, also survive him and one son Michael Andrew preceded him in death. Don had 3 half-sisters, one on his mother's side and two on his father's side. He also had two half-brothers on his father's side. And then he was blessed with an only sister when he was six years old. Today he only has one sister, Fannie Bell (Sue) Hoy remaining. The fact that some of them had the modifier "half" in front of brother or sister meant nothing to him. He was proud to call all of them his brothers and sisters. And he was equally glad to have had four grandchildren and over a dozen wonderful nieces and nephews.
His first 6 primary grades were in a one-room, one teacher school, with 9-12 students at most. Because of a double promotion, he got through the first 6 grades in 5 years. He told that the double promotion was for the teacher's convenience and not his brilliance. His seventh grade was a new situation- he was in a school with two teachers. He then went on to high school part of one year at Hamlin, Texas and three and one-half years at Gorman, Texas where he graduated in 1944. Upon graduation during a fierce part of WWII, he immediately went to work in a defense plant in Dallas Texas that built propulsion bodies for wing rockets that were launched from under the wings of Navy aircraft.
After the war was over for a few months, Don enlisted at age 17 in 1946 in the U.S. Navy for three years. He served almost two years on sea duty with his longest period aboard the USS Foss (DE-59) a destroyer escort. For several years now he has been active in the USS Foss reunion group. He served on the steering committee for that group and has spent 6 years as the editor of their newsletter.
He was discharged from the Navy in March of 1949. Shortly after being discharged, Don enrolled in college and spent two years in what is now Tarleton State University and another two years at Texas A&M University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in petroleum engineering. Also, he graduated as a distinguished military graduate with a commission in the U.S. Army Reserves. He served on an inactive status for some eight years. Upon graduation from Texas A&M, Don was employed by the Humble Oil & Refining Company, which became part of Exxon Mobil. He spent 33 years in numerous technical, professional, managerial and advisory assignments for that company. Upon retirement as a senior engineering advisor from Exxon after 33 years, he spent another 17 years as a consulting petroleum engineer-mostly for Exxon Mobil. He worked largely on legal matters and lawsuits. He had a strong affection for his profession and he was a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, a professional organization, for over 50 years.
One of his real passions was a belief in higher education for the young people of his times. He has established educational scholarships at Texas A&M University, Baylor University, Tarleton State University and The University of Tennessee. He has also been a strong contributor to the USS Slater, DE-766 Endowment Fund. The Slater is the last WWII Destroyer Escort afloat.
Through the years he spent time on one of his favorite activities. He owned, or partly owned, and flew airplanes for many years as a hobby. He had a private license and an instrument rating. He soloed at age 16 and had to give up flying at age 77 because of a health problem. During his life at some times, he was active in a church. He was a strong lover of animals, our universe, our country, the military and he had a strong belief in God.
A memorial service will be 2PM, Saturday, August 30, 2014 at Klein Funeral Home Chapel, 16131 Champion Forest Dr., Spring, TX 77379.
Lani would like to give a special Thank You to her niece Kelly and husband Casey, her nephew John and wife Stephanie, Elizabeth Bullock, Mary Louise and husband Bill and friend Cathy Bresnahan for their almost daily support and caring. Also a special Thank You to all the staff at The Atria at Cypresswood and Seasons Hospice for making Don's last days more comfortable.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Texas A&M Foundation or Seasons Hospice.
Published in Houston Chronicle on Aug. 27, 2014