Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: Many pay final respects to 'Dewey' O'Neil
The line was nearly out the door at Lambert's on Elm Street last Sunday as the many friends of "Dewey" O'Neil and his family paid their respects.
His given name was Hugh O'Neil, Jr., and his dad was longtime editor of the Union Leader. (Uncle D. Frank O'Neil was longtime State House Bureau Chief for us.) To differentiate between father and son, the son was "Dewey."
To me, he was one of the big kids who went to Bishop Bradley High with my big brother. And his mom and my mom were best buddies, although there was that one time when we were out together at Lamy's Tavern in Hampton. (The O'Neils had a cottage in the area and Dewey and brother Tommy were short-order cooks in town.) My parents got into an argument, tossed us younger ones into the car, and headed back to Candia.
I think it was along about Epping when my mother asked my father, "What about Hugh and Kay?" We had driven them to the restaurant. Apparently they got back to their cottage on shank's mare.
It probably took them less time than it took to go through the line at Dewey's wake.
Mayor Ted Gatsas was there and he predicted, within a few minutes, just how long it would take - two hours, 45 minutes.
The mayor goes to a lot of wakes. I told him he should write up "Teddy's Tips to Wakes and Funerals." He'd make a fortune.
I also found out in line that the White Horse Tavern used to stand at the corner of Meetinghouse Road and Route 3 in Bedford before the beltline came through and that the tavern, then a private residence, had a ballroom upstairs. And that John Palazzi, whose construction firm was building the road, put in a special underpass so neighborhood kids could still access a favorite fishing and skating pond on the other side of the highway.
The O'Neil family, meanwhile, had done something that I suspect will catch on quickly, if it hasn't already.
They had a video camera and lights set up in one room. While people waited in the long line, they were urged to tape their memories of Dewey so that his children and grandchildren will have a permanent keepsake.
The pictures and memorabilia on display were enough for me. They included a Western Union telegram notifying his parents that Dewey, a U.S. Marine, had been wounded in Vietnam. And there was a photo of Hughie, the proud father, pinning a Purple Heart on his equally proud son. Dewey earned two of those.
But my favorite was a full-page Sunday magazine photo display. It featured a very young Dewey O'Neil and showed how he nursed his reading habit by checking out books from Manchester's Carpenter Memorial Library. The librarian at the time was Fran Wiggin, who remains hale and hearty in Bedford.
Dewey was a huge supporter of Easter Seals of New Hampshire, just as his dad had been of the Union Leader Santa Fund. They would kick me if I didn't urge donations in their memories to those two fine funds.
Write to Joe McQuaid at firstname.lastname@example.org.