W. James O’Neill, 70, of Barnstable, MA, died on September 5 at the McCarthy Care Center in East Sandwich, MA, after a long battle with cancer.
He was born in Acushnet, MA to Dr. Walter James O’Neill and Elizabeth (Goodin) O’Neill. A Massachusetts District Court Judge for twenty-eight years, and adjunct professor of criminal law at Cape Cod Community College across four decades, Jim will also be remembered as a devoted husband and father, a wise mentor, and loyal friend.
Jim grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He graduated from New Hampton School, The University of Notre Dame, and Boston College Law School. In his second year of Law School, he was drafted and served his country with honor during a nine-month tour of duty in Vietnam as a lab technician specialist in the 55th medical battalion of the Army First Calvary Division.
In 1972, he joined the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office, becoming an Assistant DA and then First Assistant DA under the late District Attorney Philip Rollins. In 1987, he was appointed First Justice of Nantucket District Court by Governor Michael Dukakis. In 2007, he was appointed First Justice of the Barnstable District Court, a position he held until his death. As both a prosecutor and a judge, he was known for his keen judgment of character. He will be especially remembered for his service on the Judicial Education Committee and his committed mentorship of countless lawyers and judges. He taught those around him to understand the difference between genuine evil and human frailty. This ability to temper an unflagging commitment to justice with profound compassion was recognized by Diocese of Fall River, who awarded him the St Thomas More award in 2000.
Jim was cherished for his wit, warmth, generosity, and commitment to the law. He especially treasured the many invitations he received to conduct wedding ceremonies on Cape Cod and elsewhere.
Jim loved to play piano and watch Notre Dame football. He enjoyed boating and particularly loved to soothe his spirit by drifting in the current at the Sandbar off Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable with his family and friends.
He leaves behind his wife of thirty-nine years, Maureen (O’Connor); daughter Rosemary O’Neill and her husband Alec Wood of Gambier, OH; son Michael O’Neill and his wife Katie of Raleigh, NC; son Timothy O’Neill of Yarmouth, MA; foster son William Robinson and his wife Mary of East Falmouth, MA; sister The Honorable Elizabeth O’Neill La Staiti (ret.), and her husband The Rev. Dr. Edward R. Dufresne of Penobscot, ME.; sister Margaret Ann Lawrence of Wellesley, MA; and many loving nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be held Wednesday, September 9, from 4-8 p.m. at Chapman Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, 74 Algonquin Ave. at (151), Mashpee, MA. A funeral mass will be held on Thursday, September 10, at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Victory Parish Church, Centerville, MA. Burial will be private.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to student financial aid at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN; The McCarthy Care Center in East Sandwich, MA; or Cape Cod Cares for the Troops.