The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Patrick James O'Neill


IRONWOOD, Mich. - Pat O'Neill, 80, of Ironwood, passed away on July 30, 2017. In one of his poems, he wrote "death sometimes stumbles with its clown-like shilly-shally." He "stumbled" with a brain hemorrhage. Pat donated his body to science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Pat was born in 1937 in Pontiac and came to Ironwood in 1965 to teach composition, literature and creative writing at Gogebic Community College until his retirement in 2009 and then continued teaching as an adjunct. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Western Michigan University and then taught high school in Kalamazoo for five years. He boxed for Golden Gloves (state runner-up in featherweight class) when in high school, played football at Western Michigan University, served in the Marine Corps Reconnaissance Battalion (Recon), and continued his athletic tradition with his daily exercising and jogging - running up and down Mount Zion.

In 1989, the local Jaycee's awarded him Instructor of the Year. In 2012, the Gogebic Community College Foundation recognized him as Distinguished Faculty Member. His teaching style was unique, memorable, challenging, or "mind expanding" as one student described. Jeannie Milakovich - his student, colleague and friend for many years - wrote her poem "Forester" and dedicated to Pat, "Find your own song, Tell your own story." Certainly, it was a message he imparted to his students and the theme of his life and writings. The last lines of her poem read, "And left a forest enriched by the multitude of songs and stories, Of those he had guided to their own voice."

Besides teaching, Pat dedicated much of his life to writing. His works appear in dozens of small press magazines and 18 books, primarily of poetry and some short stories and plays. As he said, "I write every day, or else I don't feel right." He donated proceeds from the sale of his books to the Ironwood Carnegie Library for creative writing programs for the children. For 10 years he also supported, with house painting jobs and some grants, the publication of "The Lake Superior Review," a small press literary magazine, publishing the works of other poets and short story writers.

His family includes four children, Kevin of Kankakee, Ill., Kellie (Brad) of Sheboygan, Wis., Bill (Amethyst) of Superior, Wis., and Grady (Kristy) of Bessemer. Also surviving are his brother, Robert of Waterford; two grandchildren, Miirah and Deklan; and former wives, Marcia O'Neill and Faye Korpi.

On Aug. 5, his children and the Carnegie Library held a gathering at Nora's Bar in Hurley to present his latest book, "Nearly Naked." Those wishing to continue his support of creative programs for children can send donations to the Ironwood Carnegie Library; 235 E. Aurora St., Ironwood, MI 49938.


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