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The Northland Mourns The Passing Of Commissioner Steve O’Neil, Champion Of People

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My Grandma June used to talk about a man she worked with at Damiano Center, she talked about how much he did to help people. She could work his name into anything. You’d talk about how your car broke down, she would say, “Steve O’Neil helped me fix my car today.”

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That man became bigger in the community and did many more things. You didn’t dare thank him because he felt that’s what all people did, help each other.

St. Louis County Commissioner Steve O’Neil passed away earlier today, according to his family. O’Neil was in his home, surrounded by loved ones. He represented the county’s second district since 2005 and was most recently re-elected in November 2012.

Early this year Steve O’Neil was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of thyroid cancer. While undergoing treatment, he continued to serve and attend meetings, including the most recent meeting on July 9.

Mayor Don Ness posted on his Facebook page, “The world is a lesser place today with the passing of our friend, Steve ONeil. A very sad day for our community. Steve led a life worth celebrating and worth emulating – we honor him by learning from, and being inspired by, the life he led.”

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His obituary is posted in the Star Tribune and it reads:

He would walk down Superior Street, greeting the homeless and hungry by name, and they’d reciprocate. Everyone in Duluth knew Steve O’Neil, especially the destitute souls he championed. He was better known for creating Duluth’s Loaves and Fishes community, a combination of community activism and religious faith that became a voice for the homeless, than he was his office.

According to the family, a visitation will be held Saturday, July 20, 6-10 p.m., at Peace United Church, 1111 11th Avenue East, Duluth. The funeral service will be Sunday, July 21, at 1 p.m. in the DECC Auditorium.

Steve O’Neil was 63.

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