Resident of Saratoga
Returning to Syracuse University, after serving in the Pacific for the US Navy in WW2, Robert O'Neill's father pestered him to take pre-med courses and apply to medical school. He reluctantly agreed, and discovered a career and a calling that would be his life's joy, family medicine.
Graduating from St. Louis University Medical School, he married Sunie Birdsall. Piling their belongings in a car they drove west to California. Dr. O'Neill trained at San Francisco General Hospital and Santa Cruz General, settling in Saratoga, CA. They had five kids and raised them in Argonaut. Baseball games in the front yard, kick the can in the backyard, swim meets, basketball games along with trips to Aptos singing Gay 90s tunes filled the spare time.
First joining Dr. Jack Cox in family practice in a renovated house in downtown Saratoga, he was recruited by the town elders in 1956 to head the Citizen's Committee for Incorporation. San Jose kept annexing nearby towns and residents of Saratoga wanted to preserve its special character and rural footprint. They won the close vote and the City of Saratoga was born.
A few years later Bob established his own family practice. Delivering hundreds of babies, doing countless physicals for school sports, listening and tending to thousands more as he provided medical care for almost four decades to South Bay families. Bob was a doctor who did house calls with a black leather bag and one who wept quietly as he told families about a fatal diagnosis or death. He reveled in his ability to help heal when he could.
Longtime member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church Bob helped build the Church Hall, Rectory, Covent and School, which all the kids attended. Later on, aiding in development of the magnificent church on Saratoga Avenue.
Dr. O'Neill with a handful of other doctors pioneered the first peer review system for physicians in the State of California in the 1960s; was one of the founders of Lifeguard, a non-profit health maintenance organization and served as Chief of Staff of Good Samaritan Hospital. Bob was a member of the Saratoga Men's Club and Los Gatos Rotary.
In 1975, he married Dorothy Emerson and joyfully added her two daughters to his family. A native of New Castle Pennsylvania he was always proud of his Irish heritage. When he got a chance to finally visit the far away island he noted the warmth of its people and its beauty but smiled that California was perhaps even more beautiful.
Dr. O'Neill is survived by his children Patrick (Lori), Maura (Vaho Rebassoo), Megan (Cary Graves) and Michaela (Doug Eikenbary), as well as his stepdaughters, Carol Emerson and Robin Ogden along with ten grandchildren (Finn and Liisa O'Neill Rebassoo; Savannah and Madison O'Neill; Molly Graves; Conor and Brenna Eikenbary; Aaron and Nathan Odell; Sam Ogden) one great grandchild (Travis Odell); his sister, Dorie Ellis; his first wife, Sunie Creegan and his longtime companion, Ann Hendricsen. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Sunie, his second wife, Dorothy and seven brothers and sisters. Come celebrate his life at Sacred Heart Catholic Church 13716 Saratoga Ave on Saturday January 11, 2014 at 10 am. In lieu of flowers the family requests contributions be sent to Hospice of Valley in San Jose (www.hospicevalley.org)
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Jan. 5, 2014