Hundreds Pay Last Respects To Steve O'Neil in Duluth

By KBJR News 1

July 22, 2013 Updated Jul 22, 2013 at 12:06 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)
By this June Saint Louis County Board meeting, cancer had already robbed Commissioner Steve O'Neil of his voice.
Just a few days ago, it stole his life.
But, hundreds turned out on Sunday to raise their voices in honor of the man.

"As we weep today, God who loves us, weeps as well." said Xavier Bell.

"Twas grace that taught my heart to fear." sang Sara Thomsen.

The DECC Auditorium in Duluth was filled nearly to capacity by people mourning O'Neil's loss but also celebrating the community activist's accomplishments.

"Steve truly did justice through his work in housing, creating smoke free workplaces, planting trees, fostering kids and his work as our county commissioner." said Pastor Kathy Nelson.

O'Neil's eulogists talked about his ability to bring liberals, moderates, conservatives, the rich and the not so rich together to help people in need.

"What was most characteristic about Steve was that it was often very hard to distinguish if this process was really work or if it was play. In fact, it was a bit of both." said Jim Soderberg.

In fact, play was a big part of Steve O'Neil's life.
His friends say he wasn't all work.
They told the crowd that the Illinois native's Irish Catholic roots made him a big fan of Saint Patrick's Day and April Fool's Day.
But, that work did make a difference in the Northland.
O'Neil's sister likened here brother to George Bailey in the film, "It's a Wonderful Life".

"What a different world it would be today for many of us here if Steven Paul O'Neil had never been born." said sister Janet Moss.

In Duluth, Dave Anderson, KBJR 6 and Range 11.

Steve O'Neil was 63 years old.
A special election will likely be held to fill his now empty St. Louis County commission seat.