Cover photo for John William O'Neill, Jr.'s Obituary
1948 John 2023

John William O'Neill, Jr.

March 15, 1948 — April 15, 2023



John “Johnny Bill” W. O’Neill 75, of Duluth passed away peacefully with family by his side on April 15, 2023.

The first of six children, Johnny was born on March 15, 1948, to John and Joan O’Neill. He was a 1966 graduate of Duluth Cathedral High School.

Johnny grew up on Park Point and loved every aspect of it. He would take his speedboat to church every Sunday, and the rest of the family would take the car. From playing and coaching, hockey, and baseball, to rowing in Lake Superior. He spent many years at The Duluth Rowing Club under coach Henning Peterson. Becoming a quarter mile-dash champion. Among the many things that Johnny excelled at, he was the most phenomenal on water skis, a real treat to watch. Besides his love for sports and the outdoors, Johnny also had a love for fast cars, and pretty girls.

Shortly after graduation in 1966, Johnny started his studies at UMD. Although he enjoyed his studies, he wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a Marine.  Johnny enlisted in the USMC and followed his Uncle Jerome’s footsteps. Before his selfless service to our country began, Johnny married his love, Ruth Ann Saker, and together they had 2 sons, Patrick, and Ryan.

In 1968, Johnny was sent to Vietnam as a Marine. Part of the mission he served is known as The Battle of Khe Sanh, when they were surrounded for 77 days with solid gunfire 24/7.  While in Vietnam, Johnny was injured twice, and received 2 Purple Hearts.  Upon his return home to the US, Johnny continued his service in the USMC, serving out of Coronado Military Base in San Diego California. Johnny would learn later he would face many challenges in life because of getting sprayed with agent orange while serving. After his Honorable Discharge from service, Johnny and Ruth returned home to Duluth.

Johnny worked at UPS as a driver, and spent his time fishing, camping, and hunting with his boys. The love he had for his sons was unmatched.

Over the course of many years, he tried to fight the signs and symptoms of MS. Despite any of the challenges he faced, he continued to say that if he had a chance to do it all over again, he would, in a heartbeat.

Over the past 10 years, Johnny was so lucky to live at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Silver Bay MN. He made countless friendships, touched the lives of all the staff, and shared in the memories of all who lived there. He is most famous for his sense of humor and quick wit.

Johnny is proceeded in death by, his loving parents, John and Joan O’Neill, his wife Ruth, son Ryan and brothers, Tommy, and Kevin.

Johnny is survived by his son Patrick. His faithfully supportive and loving siblings, Danny (Julie) O’Neill and Margie (Billy) Maloney. Nieces and nephews, Shawn (Krista) O’Neill and their sons, William, Matthew and Brandon, Erin Boit and her children, Ian and Mya, Lindsey (Olie) Hedge, and their sons Oak and Maverick, Britney (Michael) Boyum and Madilyn Maloney.

Visitation will be on Wednesday May 3, 2023, at Dougherty Funeral Home 600 E 2nd St, Duluth MN 55805 from 5pm to 7pm. Funeral service will be held at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church 325 E 3rd St, Duluth, Thursday, May 4, 2023, at 10am. Burial at the Minnesota Veterans Cemetery, 4777 Hwy 53, Saginaw, MN to follow at 2pm, with full Military Honors.

We would like to extend our utmost gratitude and appreciation for all the wonderful staff at the MN Veterans Home in Silver Bay, for all the love and compassion you showed Johnny. He truly felt at home. To the staff at Lakeview Hospital in Two Harbors, for their compassion and dedication to helping Johnny. Lastly, to St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, the dignity and honor you showed Johnny will always be remembered.

Arrangements by Dougherty Funeral Home, Duluth MN, 218-727-3555.  Please visit to sign the online guestbook.


To send flowers to the family in memory of John William O'Neill, Jr., please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Wednesday, May 3, 2023

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

Dougherty Funeral Home Duluth

600 East Second Street, Duluth, MN 55805

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Thursday, May 4, 2023

Starts at 10:00 am (Central time)

St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church

325 E 3rd St, Duluth, MN 55805

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Thursday, May 4, 2023

2:00 - 3:00 pm (Central time)

Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery

4777 US-53, Saginaw, MN 55779

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