HUGH O'NEIL: 1930-2019.
Hugh's career in the nation's weather agencies began in 1952 and lasted 41 years. In September of that year, he entered the United States Air Force (USAF) to serve with its Air Weather Service. Under the auspices of the USAF, he completed a graduate school atmospheric sciences program at New York University (NYU) and a specialized study program at Penn State, collecting his masters in meteorology in 1960. In addition to serving stateside, Hugh completed a tour of duty in Greenland in 1955 and earned a Bronze Star during another tour in Vietnam in 1971.
Hugh considered serving as a meteorological computer specialist at the Global Weather Center at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, as the highlight of his military career. He was one of a group of military scientists and specialists who developed the first computerized military weather program. Hugh developed a mathematical model of the atmosphere that produced wind and temperature forecasts for military flight planning. In 1961, for his accomplishments as a pioneer in numerical weather prediction, he received the USAF Merewether Award, presented annually in recognition of the most significant contribution to military meteorology.
Hugh retired from the USAF as a lieutenant colonel in 1972 but continued his service as a civilian with the National Weather Service's (NWS) Meteorological Center in Suitland, Maryland. His scientific team evaluated the accuracy and effectiveness of satellite weather observation systems in weather forecasting, and in 1976 installed the first nationwide NWS computer system. Hugh retired from the NWS in 1993. Throughout his career, he remained a proud member of the Air Weather Association and AMS.
As his children moved away from home, Hugh dedicated more of his time to community service. He was a volunteer and the advisory council chairperson for a homeless shelter in Falls Church, Virginia, for many years. As a member of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, Virginia, he served in a number of outreach capacities.
Born on April 18, 1930, in Watertown, New York, Hugh was the only child of Harold J. and Elizabeth O'Neil. Hugh attended local schools in Watertown before matriculating to St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where he graduated with a B.S. with honors in mathematics in 1952.
On June 6, 1953, Hugh married his college sweetheart, Mary M. Garvin, of Schenectady, New York. Throughout their 58 years of marriage, Hugh and Mary (Ginger) lived in five states and raised six children. Following Hugh's retirement from the air force, the family made Annandale, Virginia, their home for nearly 25 years. Hugh and Ginger moved to Texas to be closer to most of their children and grandchildren following his retirement from the NWS.
In 2004, Ginger suffered a major stroke, and Hugh devoted his life to being her primary caregiver. He remained her rock, her constant companion, and an unwaveringly soothing presence until she passed away in 2011. Following her death, he refocused his energies on leading history classes in his retirement community, rekindling an interest in astronomy, and authoring two self-published books.
Hugh is survived by his six children and respective spouses: Betsy and Paul Thomas, Garv and Jan O'Neil, Hal and Cynthia O'Neil, Phyllis and Tony Syme, Shirley and Paul Owen, and Dan O'Neil; 13 grandchildren and respective spouses: Alex and Jen Thomas, Cassie and Doug Price, Andie and James Hernandez, Jessica O'Neil, Shannon O'Neil, Jaclyn O'Neil, Jeremy O'Neil, Matt Syme, Kate and Michael Dober, Molly and Chris Menzel, Erin and Dakota Walkley, Rachel Owen, and Dan Owen; and two great-grandchildren: Natalie Thomas and Emma Price.
PAUL LETTON SMITH JR.
Caption: Lt. Col. Hugh O'Neil
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|Publication:||Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2019|
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