Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brian's obituary

Just wanted to share Brian's obituary with all of you. Things are pretty crazy here getting everything planned and organized. Funerals are like planning weddings without the wardrobe issues in a matter of days without RSVP's. WOW! Luckily, I am surrounded by people who are helping with planning, organizing, singing, orchestrating, feeding, shopping and displaying. It is painfully enjoyable, if that makes sense.

Here is a copy of Brian's obit:

Brian's is on the right. You can sign the guest book and post comments there. You can leave private comments there as well if you are uncomfortable with anyone else seeing your words. Please know that I plan on printing out all the comments from yesterday's post, today's post and from the online obituary for the boys and me in the future.

The boys are doing okay. The grief comes in waves for me right now - sometimes it is high tide and sometimes it is low tide. Gavin has not expressed any sorrow yet. Grant cried, actually sobbed uncontrollably, for 45 minutes yesterday. He wanted to get back to Illinois and check on Daddy yesterday. When he arrived, I had to tell him Daddy was gone. While he seemed fine upon hearing the news, within an hour, he was not. There were no words to say. It was just a time to share his tears and hold tightly to him for as long as it took. He spent the afternoon divvying up the contents of Brian's wallet.

Actually, you know what, here is the text of the obituary. Why click again if you don't need to? The obit link will have the photo though. Going through photos makes you realize how often we do not take pictures of those we love with others we love or in places we love. Finding a photo of Brian alone was a painstaking process - or rather, finding one of him alone in which he was not making a silly face was a painstaking process.

DUNLAP-Brian Edward O’Neill, 36, of Dunlap, passed away at 12:45 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

Brian was born on November 2, 1972, in Hong Kong, the second of three boys of Ed and Jan (Fennell) O'Neill. After spending the first 5 years of his life in the Far East, Brian spent his entire grade and high school years in Pekin, IL where he graduated from Pekin High School in 1990 as president of his class.

Brian pursued higher education at the University of Missouri at Rolla (now Missouri University of Science and Technology) where he obtained a B.S in Mining Engineering in 1995. He was a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, the Society of Mining Engineers and the social fraternity Theta Tau Omega.

Brian worked for Caterpillar for his entire career as a Marketing Representative. Brian's job took him to Peoria, IL; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; and Edmonton, Canada.
Brian met his wife, Angie (Baer) O'Neill in college. They married on April 19, 1997 in St. Louis, MO.

He was a devoted and loving father to two of his greatest joys - his sons with Angie, Gavin (7) and Grant (6). He loved to watch them play sports, to take them to movies and to snuggle with them.

Brian's two brothers were another of his greatest sources of joy. He thoroughly enjoyed fishing and playing cards with Sean (Cheryl) O'Neill and Michael (Jennifer) O'Neill.

Brian loved his family - all of them - including his very large extended family and his wife's very large extended family. His grandparents preceded him in death - Leo O'Neill, Loretta (Johnston) O'Neill, Joseph T. Fennell, and Betty (White) Fennell-Breese.

In 1997, Brian began a battle with brain cancer. Brian courageously and valiantly fought the cancer until his dying breath on March 17, 2009.

Brian's impact on the world is immeasurable and his legacy will live on.

Funeral arrangements for Brian are as follows: Visitation: 4-8pm Friday, March 20 Wright and Salmon Mortuary 2416 N. North Street Peoria, IL 61604

Funeral: 10:30 am Saturday, March 21, 2009 with visitation 1 hour prior at Northwoods Community Church 10700 N. Allen Road Peoria, IL 61615

In lieu of flowers, the family has established a fund for the future education and upbringing of their children. Contributions can be made by contacting Jayme Bailey at Baird Financial 309-676-4160 or by visiting



  1. Angie...

    I've never posted a comment to your blog before although I checked it frequently. Ralph & I often think about you and Brian. You have been and will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. I can't imagine what you are going through and I don't know what to say. Please know that you and the boys are in our thoughts and prayers. If you ever need anything, please let us know.

    God Bless!

  2. Angie, I thought of you this week, then realized I'd never rewritten that long email I wrote you (and then lost) about the book I did for my sons. Then I came here and discovered why God brought you to mind. Oh sweet sister whom I do not know, but whose sorrow I share! I don't know when you'll read this, but I'll come back later - and will be praying for you and your boys.

    I do want to say that I don't know that death ever fulfills our expectations of what it will be like. When my husband died, I somehow thought I'd at least feel him leave, but I didn't. God woke me only minutes before his last breath, but it was as though he arrived on the other shore at the very same moment he left this one. His face didn't glow nor did he reach out his arms to Jesus. He was just...gone. I've thought long and often since then about heaven being only a breath away, and I think we'll find when we arrive there ourselves that it was closer to us than we could ever have imagined.

    I know that God will keep you and your boys in the bubble of His grace in these next few weeks. I'll keep you in my prayers. And I'll be back.

    Marty at Pollysdotter
    (I'm having problems getting the comment to show my Pollysdotter identity, so I'm "anonymous.")

  3. Angie & family. We are so sorry to read about Brian. He was a very special man, and our family was truely blessed having him and you and the family a part of our lifes. You definitely have been a soul-mate to him, with lots of love and compassion and encouragement for him. Blessings to you all. We love you.
    Bev. & Howie, Stef and family, Stacy and family, Troy.

  4. angie,

    i wish you and your children and all those who loved brian peace. you are so wise to know that all you can do is be next to them when they cry. i have no doubt that there are a thousand people there who will sit next to you while you cry too. brian will.

    be well,


  5. Angie,

    Thank you for sharing Brian's obituary with all of's a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. Reading about your preparations for Brian's funeral takes me back in time and brings back many memories - some painful and some beautiful. One memory I wanted to share with you is this ... I remember setting my alarm for 6:00 a.m. the morning of my husband's funeral, and then God waking me up ten minutes before my alarm went off. I went to Him in prayer and asked Him to help me through the day that was to come as it was going to be the hardest day of my life - I was going to my husband's funeral and saying goodbye to him forever. God gently whispered in my soul that, no, that was not the hardest day, because the hardest day was the day he died, the day he was taken from me. That day - the day of his funeral - was going to be a great day of celebration...of my husband's life and of all that God had done in and through his life and, also, through his death. That set the tone/mood for the rest of my day and, I must admit, that my husband's funeral was not a painful experience for me but, rather, a time for reflection, praise, and celebration whereby God was glorified and lives were changed. I am praying that for you, also, Angie. That doesn't mean that at the end of the day I wasn't drained, weary and broken-hearted...because I was...but I was also thankful, blessed, and in awe of my amazing God.

    I will be praying for you during this time and the days and months to come, specifically where your boys are concerned...for those moments when there are no words to comfort them.

    "Blessed be the Lord, Who bears our burdens and carries us day by day..." Psalm 68:19

    Your Sister in Christ from Nebraska, Kim

  6. That was really a beautiful tribute. I am sure he is so proud.

  7. Angie,
    The words of a stranger who has no idea what it's like to walk in your shoes hardly seem appropriate or helpful. Reading Kim and Marty's posts above leave me in awe at the grace and acceptance that one day comes to those who lose their husbands. I have no doubt that your words will also be of comfort to another down the road. You've been through so many difficult days, from Brian's initial diagnosis, to watching the disease progress, to losing him, to having to break the news to your boys. I now pray that the next two days will not be so difficult to you, but rather bring you some comfort and peace as you celebrate Brian's life and legacy.

  8. I have read the obituary several times. Maybe I'm trying to make it real? Knowing that when we go back to Peoria in a day, it will be for his funeral. How is that possible? Oh, Angie, know that we will be here in the months and years to come. This is not the end, but, rather the beginning...we are in this journey together.

    I love you and I miss you and I'm still so so sorry.

    Janell H.

  9. The tribute to your husband and father is very beautiful!! I know that he is dancing with Jesus right now. I think about the song "I Can Only Imagine." Can you imagine the party that is going on? Maybe that is why the plans are painfully enjoyable. You know that your love is in an AWESOME place!!

  10. Angie-- I cant help but post everytime you post. It is amazing the composure you have to write so elloquently (sp?) in the midst of what you are dealing with. Even though Ive lost track of you since college, your blog brings me right back to our freshman year. You are such a true and honest person, I only wish I could have half the strength and grace you have shown. Your boys have a remarkable woman as their mother, dont every forget that! You are one in a million! My prayers continue for peace for you and your boys.

    May God watch over you in the days to come.

    Jill Bruss & Family

  11. You are already learning so much--about the numbness and waves and the wisdom of time and space to grieve. Thank for you for giving us the gift of sharing with us at this time. As always I am holding your family close to my heart.

  12. Angie,

    I have been thinking and praying for you often these past couple of days. And I think what you wrote for his Obituary is wonderful. You truly captured him and his love for all around.

    Hugs to you and your family. I am continuing to pray and hold up you and the boys. I am sure Brian is so very proud of you!


  13. Hi Angie~

    The obituary is very beautiful. I love that you had a hard time finding a photo of Brian that wasn't silly. That says volumes about the joy that Brian had in his life.

    I am thinking about you and the boys, and keeping you, them, and your extended family in prayer.

    Still believing.

  14. Thank you for keeping us posted on the busyness of so many people having come together to be there with you and the boys. I am sending you Angie,Gavin and Grant a few extra hugs from AR.
    Love Marjo and family

  15. I'm praying for you and your boys. God bless you.

  16. Still thinking of you and your family. Sendiny you so much needed blessings and strength.

  17. Sending you love and prayers. I wish I could be at the funeral.

  18. Hi Angie, I too have read your blog and kept up on you and your family for a long time. I think I may have posted something in the past as well. I am so glad you have such a strong faith and family with huge support for you at this time...and for the boys. You are SO STRONG and it is amazing what the human spirit can get through. You have been an amazing wife and mother, I can just tell even if I haven't met Brian or your boys.

    I will be thinking of you all this weekend and know that Brian will be watching over with smiles.

    Love, Barb Reilly (Kraft)

  19. Angie, I am so sorry for you and your family. My husband Derek grew up with Brian and we all went to high school together. He was just a real nice guy. I bet he was such a good dad. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
    Allison Drockelman

  20. I wish you peace.

  21. I am so sorry. i just lost my grandmother. I am so sorry.

  22. Angie, thinking of you and hoping you are surrounded by love.

  23. OH Angie, My heart is breaking for you. I felt impressed this evening to check your blog, and when I saw your title, "Brians Obituary", I was overcome with tears. I have used up a box of Kleenex.. I Have been reading your blog since Nov. 07, and have read your joys and fears. Your dreams and hopes. And I have been strengthened by your FAITH and commentment to God, not just your dear husband, and your boys. I have spent much time in prayer for you and Bryan, that the outcome would be different. I prayed so hard for my sister Judy, who died 3 years ago from a brain tumor.. I still have moments when I am overcome with the fact that she is gone. I think of things I want to tell her, and things I want to share with her, or ask advice.. and I can't. But time helps.. and I am ok now..
    I do not know you, but oh how I admire you.. You have such wisdom, and character.. both are more valuable than any riches and gold. God is proud of you I'm sure.. You have done well. Bryan's life was a great testimony to God. Your Blog has been a great way to show God's love in your home, life, and in death. A huge hug from me, I wish I could come to the funeral. But I will be thinking of you all day, and will never forget you, Brian, or your boys.. Please keep writing.. My sons and grandkids are your families ages.. I can't imagine what your going through, or your extended family.. A loyal friend.. Liz from Washington state.

  24. I like the picture you found of Brian...his eyes are so sparkling.

  25. Angie,
    I received the news of Brian's passing and I am deeply saddened. My friend Brian, was really a big brother in our days in Rolla, Missouri. The two of you had my respect and admiration. I am truly sad that he's gone.

    I kind of lost track of you both after your time in Denver and we haven't spoken in some time; but I often would wonder how things were going with you. As I understand from reading your blog, Brian overcame many obstacles and touched many other lives in his life. One thing is certain, he was fortunate to have you in his life.

    I wanted to pass along my condolences, and wish you happier days ahead. Brian is at peace now. I honestly believe, he left this world on St. Patrick's Day so all his friends could remember to raise a glass to him every year. I will always remember him fondly.

    Brian Fortelka
    UMR Mining Engineering Grad '96

  26. Angie,
    I received an email with the news of Brian's passing and was completely shocked and overcome with sadness. I remember both of you fondly from our days in Rolla all those years ago. Words can not express the sadness I feel for your loss.

    I lost track of you guys after you graduated, but heard an occasional word, about you, from your friends. I was devastated when I first heard the bad news all those years ago. Sadly, I thought Brian had beaten the odds. I want to pass on my sincerest condolences to you and your extended family. God has a plan that we don't always understand, as in this case. I am heartened by the fact that Brian is at peace and looking down and watching over you and the boys.

    I think it is no coincidence that God decided to take Brian into his kingdom on St. Patrick's Day. His memory and the memories we all made together in our youth will be with me always.

    Pete Rigas
    UMR Engineering Mgt Grad '97

  27. Angie,

    We have never met, or even spoken before. I have followed your journal about Brian, and your family for some time now. If it had not been for Janell I would have no idea who you were. My heart breaks for you, and Brian. I have no idea how you must feel right now, but I want to let you know that you have been in our thoughts and prayers. I work with women who have many types of cancer, and each one fills my heart in so many ways. Some of them I may only meet once or twice, and then never see them again. It is a very hard thing to love and let go, but we all know that our time here on earth is not in our hands. God has a plan for each of us that we are not to question. It is so hard for the ones that are left behind, but if we only think of what the ones that were choosen before us will get to experience, it seems to make it ok. My husband and I have a one son who will be five, and his favorite song is "I can only Imagine". To hear him sing it as we are riding in the car, I have to think to myself about all of the what if's in this world. I to will be faced with many losses in my life, and I only hope that I can have an ouce of your strength, and courage. Your children are very lucky to have such a Mother, and Father who loves them ever so much. You will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.

    Kemberly Ziegenhorn

  28. heart goes out to you and your boys! It brings back SO many memories for me. My husband passed away with cancer at the age of 25. We had 2 small children at that time ages 3 1/2 & 5. That was in 1993. My kids have grown up to be wonderful adults and I'm so proud of them. With God's help...anything is possible! I came to your blog from Kelli's Korner. I'll be praying for you and your boys!

  29. Heard your story through Angie Smith's blog...I'm very sorry for your loss. I am a cancer patient too and can only imagine how difficult these days are for you and your boys. My prayers are with you.

    Lorri Steer

  30. I just found you through Kelly @ Kelly's Korner & wanted to let you know that your family is in my prayers. I can't imagine what you or your boys are going through--but I can tell that you will make it. Your strength & faith in God is inspiring. I hope & pray that if I am ever in the same situation, I will be able to be as strong as you are! My prayers are with you during this difficult time.

  31. What a beautiful obit...I know you will have lots of support and friends both real life, family and internet..but if you ever want someone that has "been there done that"..let me know. My girlfriend lost her husband due to ALS..they had a young daughter at the time. It's been over 5 years and there is of course still grief..if you ever feel the need I can hook you up. It's not fair and even with and angel on your shoulder and God in your heart you are still just a girl. Let others be strong for you sometime OK?

  32. Even though I don't know you, I have thought about you every day, often many times a day, since reading about Brian's passing. My heart aches for you and the boys.

    I find myself feeling guilty when I get upset with my own husband; guilty, because I have a husband to be upset with and how dare I be upset with him when I am so lucky he's there, and guilty because I hope I don't someday regret being upset with him once he's gone. (My husband has heart problems so his mortality is always in the back of my mind.)

    Anyway. I am thinking of you, and wishing I knew you in person so I could somehow help in even a tiny way.

  33. Oh, my Angie... small world. My maiden name is Fennell....

    I am so glad you have continued with your blog, in such a great format of letters to Brian.

    You are some woman, alright. Take care.

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