Rosemary Dorothy O’Neill, daughter of Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr., former Speaker of the House and one of the state’s top political figures, died July 20.
Born and raised in Cambridge, she attended Ellis School, St. John’s Elementary School, Matignon High School and Dunbarton College. Then she went to Washington.
Rosemary’s brother, Thomas “Tom” O’Neill III, said the family has been deeply involved in politics for 130 years.
Rosemary O’Neill retired to the Port of Harwich in 2004.
“We have always considered it a public service,” said Thomas O’Neill III. “The idea that you can run for office, win, and lead your city, district, state, and federal government is one of the greatest callings anyone can have. We consider this to be noble. Rosemary felt that.
After graduating from college, O’Neill joined the US State Department. She was one of the first women to be sworn into the Foreign Service, her brother said.
O’Neill lived and worked in Washington until she was assigned to Morocco in 1980. She traveled in her various posts, including in the former Soviet Union to promote the human rights of people with disabilities , and in Northern Ireland as an adviser to the Director of Policy. planning on Northern Ireland issues.
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“She has worked for women’s rights and equality for many people around the world, especially in Northern Ireland, Morocco, Malta and Afghanistan,” her brother said. “She created an open forum at the State Department that brought in non-governmental people with expertise in foreign affairs and foreign policy to talk with State Department employees.”
Rosemary O’Neill was a glass ceiling breaker at the State Department and for that she received accolades, her brother said.
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“She was the connective tissue, making sure she reached every member of the family,” he said. “She always thought it was her job to make sure all the nephews and nieces stayed in touch, making sure everyone was well and healthy. If there was a need for a town crier, she would let people know what was going on.
Leigh Crowley O’Neill, Rosemary’s niece and goddaughter, agreed.
“She understood the importance of showing up, of being present,” said Leigh O’Neill. “She was totally devoted to me and all of her nieces and nephews. She had a lot of love to give and she spread it widely.
Always the center of attention at family Christmas and Thanksgiving tables, whether in Boston, Washington or Harwich, Rosemary O’Neill loved to entertain, talk politics and foreign affairs, her brother said.
But it was Cape Cod that was the family’s favorite place to rest and relax and just be together, Leigh O’Neill said.
“Cape Town is such a wonderful, restorative place for families to come together and just be family and not do what they do professionally,” she said. “Cape Town is that for my family. We used to see her here and it was a lovely, loving, restorative environment.
In retirement, Rosemary O’Neill served on the Harwich Democratic Committee and served as Chair of the Board of the Family Pantry of Cape Cod. She was an emissary of the city, praising its natural resources, protected lands, trails, ports, and places of entertainment.
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“I don’t care if it was walking trails, a bird grazing in a lake, she wanted everyone to know,” said Thomas O’Neill III, her brother. “She was just interested. She was always reading, always sharing her knowledge and her love at the same time.
After Leigh O’Neill graduated from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, her aunt served as a mentor. She was a role model as a career professional and always passionate about America’s role in the world, Leigh O’Neill said.
“She made it normal, especially for aspiring professional women in politics,” O’Neill said. “If you see a leader or role model in your family, it shows you can do it too. She did it with incredible integrity, a love of country, and she did it all day, every day. .