Ruth Wardwell Brown O'Neil
Dec 28, 1935 - Jan 9, 2017
- Ruth Wardwell Brown O'Neil, 81, passed away, January 9, 2017. She was the daughter of Kenneth Wardwell and Nadine Mary (Finnegan) Brown, and the granddaughter of Albert Hinckley Brown, one of the first owners of the Old Town Enterprise, now known as The Penobscot Times.
Ruth attended Old Town schools and graduated from Old Town High School in 1954. Upon her graduation, she immediately left for Alabama to start her training in the United States Army. After serving, she graduated from Husson College and worked at Viner's Music Company as a record buyer. There, she met the love of her life, James Roy O'Neil. They married and were very happy until his premature death in 1976. They only had fourteen years together, but they were wonderful years, and they had a daughter. Ruth was also a proud member of the Old Town United Baptist Church.
Music, history, and politics were a major part of her life. When she was a junior in high school, she spent the summer at Hancock Point with the Harlow family. Ruth, a violinist, was asked to play for a neighbor, who happened to be the maestro, Pierre Monteaux. This was one of the greatest times of her life, and little did she know there was more to come.
During the Bicentennial, Ruth was asked to Chair the Museum Committee. Later, she was to Chair the Bicentennial Committee for Old Town. Ruth went to City, State, and Federal governments and was awarded funds for the development of the Museum. She then hit the road, speaking at clubs and writing articles for many newspapers. Soon people became interested. Boston television had two women putting together a cookbook to raise funds for the Museum on a morning show. Ruth was on the Today Show and the Portland Herald did a two-page spread on the Museum and Ruth's efforts on its behalf. Ruth appeared on Eddie Driscoll's weekly show of "Dialing for Dollars." Ruth then went to the talented citizenry of Old Town and they volunteered to help. Most of them are gone now, but you can see their touches in the Museum. The Museum started in the old Pump House on North 4th Street Ext., and is now located in St. Mary's Church in Old Town.
Once the Museum was accomplished, Ruth thought her work was done. However, veterans were in need of their comrade's help, and she did what she could to assist them with applications for veterans' benefits, acting as a resource for their questions and concerns. Ruth served as Adjutant under three commanders in the Hall Coiley Old Town Chapter of the Old Town Disabled American Veterans. Ruth participated actively in the Old Town American Legion, the Old Town AmVets, and the Chapter of Veterans of the Korean War in Bangor. She was also a charter member of the Women's Memorial in Washington, DC.
During this time, Ruth was also serving on the Old Town Republican Committee as Secretary. She served for two decades for the GOP, also on the County Committee, on the campaigns for Senator William Cohen, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Olympia Snowe, Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, and George W. Bush. She was also a member of the Orono Chapter of Ester Ayers Daughters of the American Revolution. When Ruth thought she had retired from politics, John McCain changed her mind and she jumped into politics again wholeheartedly.
After a long hiatus, Ruth decided to rekindle her love of music and began playing her violin again. She called on Anatole Veits to ask if he would send one of his fourth-year students to help her get started again, and Melissa entered her life, introducing her to a whole new kind of music. She discovered bluegrass, country, gospel, and Irish music, which she continued to play for the rest of her life.
Ruth O'Neil was predeceased by her beloved husband, Jim O'Neil; her father and mother, Kenneth and Nadine Brown; a brother, David Brown; a sister, Marjorie and her husband, David Jewett; and a brother-in-law, Donald King. She is survived by her daughter, Danielle-Rene Davis; her son-in-law, Scott Davis; two grandchildren, Courtney Davis-Dixon and her husband, Daniel Dixon, and Chandler Davis and his sons, Aidyn and Gavin Davis. Ruth is also survived by two sisters, Persis Brown of Old Town and Nancy King of Stillwater; a sister in law, Honey Brown; and a very special friend, Louis Mallory of Bangor.
A funeral service will be held 10 a.m., Saturday, January 21, 2017, at United Baptist Church in Old Town, with Pastor Bruce Stevens officiating. All are invited to share in refreshments at the church hall following the service. A graveside service at Lawndale Cemetery will be announced later in the spring. Those who wish to remember her in a special way may make gifts in her memory to the United Baptist Church, 86 Middle St., Old Town, ME 04468.