Hal O'NEIL

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  • "Hello Lesley, I am so very sorry to learn of Hal's..."
    - Julie Rydalch
  • "Hal was a very special person & was my favourite uncle, a..."
    - Kerry Gibson (nee O'Neil)
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    - Claudine Nelson
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O'NEIL, Hal (Harold) Blyth
O'Neil, Hal (Harold) Blyth died in Edmonton, Alberta in the very early hours of February 4, 2013, of complications after being hospitalized by a serious haemorrhage.
Born March 21, 1934 in North Bay, Ontario, Hal is survived by his wife of 40 years, Lesley (Dalrymple) O'Neil; his brother Don (Bunny); niece Kerry Gibson; and nephews Jeff (Melody) and Steve (Marianne Pfleger) O'Neil.
He was predeceased by his sister Peggy McKay and his parents, Patrick 'Paddy' O'Neil and Edna May (McClelland) O'Neil of North Bay.
A journalism grad of Ryerson University, Hal first was a reporter for the Toronto Telegram. He then moved into public affairs, working with Goodyear Tire, Canadian Pacific, and Bell Canada, before meeting Lesley when they were both part of Ontario Hydro's public relations department. There, in the late 1960s, he coined the now widely-used term 'public participation'.
After Hal enjoyed a change of pace as a real estate agent in Peterborough, Ontario, with Bowes and Cocks, he and Lesley moved to Edmonton. He returned to the field of public relations, this time with the provincial government. He was director of public affairs for several departments, including Alberta Transportation, Social Services and Community Health, Hospitals and Medical Care, and Advanced Education. His work at Transportation led to an award from the Canadian Public Relations Society for a film spot. He also was instrumental, while at Social Services, in initiating the Wednesday's Child program in cooperation with CFRN/CTV.
In those days, bipolar depression was not widely understood. Hal hid his problem, even from Lesley, and when his work started deteriorating, was given the choice of resigning from his director-level position, or taking a lower-level staff job. He chose the latter, working with Municipal Affairs. In 1990, he was finally diagnosed, and went on long- term disability.
In 1999, Lesley retired early and the two celebrated retirement with a nine-week driving trip from coast to coast, with their dog Sheba making sure they stopped often to smell the roses - or any nearby fenceposts, in her case.
Hal volunteered at Edmonton's food bank for quite a few years, and also was a volunteer on the editorial committee of the Alberta Genealogical Society's quarterly, Relatively Speaking.
Soft-spoken; very intelligent; and a devoted husband, brother, uncle, and friend, Hal will be sorely missed. At his request, there will be no Service. Cremation has taken place. If you wish to make a donation in his memory, the Edmonton Humane Society and Medecins Sans Frontieres Canada were his favourite charities.


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Published in The Edmonton Journal from Feb. 9 to Feb. 12, 2013
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