Nick O'Neill, 18; actor, 'amazing songwriter'
Tall, slim, blond, and 18 years old, Nicholas Philip O'Neill dreamed of being a rock star in a "hair metal" band, his friends say. Party anthems from the '80s were in his blood. He wrote more than 50 of his own songs, catchy tunes about girlfriends and hanging out, and performed them as the lead singer of his band, Shryne.
His father, radio personality and "Father Misgivings" creator Dave Kane, said his son was a natural musician from when he was a small child. By the age of 18, he had recorded a CD.
"We got him five guitar lessons and he just took off," Kane said.
"What really hurts about it," said friend Dave Tessier, 32, "is this kid was just an amazing songwriter. When I met him, the kid was 16 and he'd written all these great tunes. I was in awe of him."
Nick was expecting to hear some more good music when he went to The Station on Feb. 20 with bandmate Jon Brennan. Jon made it out alive.
"He was actually with Nick until the final moments when it went black, and they got separated," said Jon's mother, Kari Tieger.
Nick was born in Warwick, a son of Joanne O'Neill of Pawtucket, formerly of Cranston, and Kane, of North Providence. He lived most of his life in Cranston, attending Cranston High School East before moving to Pawtucket several month ago.
In addition to being a talented rocker, Nick is remembered as a gifted performer for All Children's Theatre, according to Wrenn Goodrum, the East Providence group's artistic director.
"He was always so full of life," Goodrum said. His jokes would break the tension during a tough rehearsal. His smiles would encourage even the younger members of the troupe, who admired him. "He had a special way of working with them so they could find their parts, their character," she said. "Even some of the kids we adults couldn't reach."
"Nick and I, we used to goof around," said a friend from the theater troupe, Dan Kenner, 16. Kenner remembers that once, while they rehearsed for a play about the Holocaust, O'Neill's role called for him to come onstage and greet the other people in the room with a kiss on the cheek. It was supposed to be a somber moment. But as he entered, he whispered jokes in the actors' ears, sending them into stitches. "All the other kids would get in trouble," Dan said, laughing. "You could always count on Nick for a joke."
-- John Hill, Providence Journal staff
-- Drawing courtesy of Charlie Hall
Published in The Providence Journal on Mar. 20, 2003