Harry O’Neill was born on May 21, 1949 to Annie & Harold O’Neill. He was the sixth of eight children and spent his early years in Manhattan’s Yorkville and Cambria Heights, Queens where he attended parochial schools before entering St. Agnes High School. The Marist Brothers considered him a good student, and he was awarded a scholarship to St. John’s University. He wore many hats as he worked his way through college. As a young marathon runner, nothing could hold him back, and as a teacher, gardener, carpenter, tile setter, NYC taxi cab driver, and real estate agent, he excelled at almost anything he touched, always doing his best. He could tell a joke and have you rolling in the aisle, and he could lift your spirits as a singer.
A lifetime athlete who earned his MS in Physical Education with a concentration in Outdoor Education from Queens College, he spent over 25 years at Herricks coaching, teaching, substituting, and training. He perfected his career at Herricks doing what he loved, and this was both obvious and appreciated. Clearly, Harry was a successful coach; he was named Nassau County Baseball Coaches Association “Coach of the Year” in 1995, and as the Girls Cross Country coach, he helped many of his runners obtain college scholarships. Success meant more to Harry than awards and accolades, though. For him, success was about being a positive influence in the lives of others. Because he freely gave his time to mentor young teachers and students, Harry’s influence will be everlasting.
Harry possessed qualities that made him a reservoir of gifts; his laughter, his tenacity, his strength and his tenderness all were crowned by his marvelous sense of humor and infectious smile. It’s fitting that we honor Harry’s memory with a road race. He was an avid marathoner who competed in many races including the Long Island Marathons, where he finished among the top 50 runners and the New York City Marathons, where he finished in the top 10 percent. Because Harry loved people, he rarely ran alone- he was most often accompanied by his brother, Bobby.
Harry’s memory has brought us together today. Like Harry, we should enjoy the outdoors this competition affords and especially each other. In this way, we can remember Harry for who he was and celebrate what he will always mean to each of us. Good luck!