Published on October 21, 2019

In Memory of Patricia (Patty) O’Neill

Patty O'Neill with Norman Smith & Snowy Owl © Ray MacDonald
Patty O'Neill & Norman Smith © Ray MacDonald

Patricia O'Neill, a long-time supporter of Blue Hills Trailside Museum, passed away peacefully on October 3, 2019, closing a life spent in service to others and in stewardship to the natural world.

In 1967, Patty volunteered for a new service agency—Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA)—started as one of President Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" initiatives. This federal agency, currently part of AmeriCorps, organizes volunteers to assist local agencies that serve low-income communities, particularly those providing access to education and health care. 

Patty put her fluency in Spanish to work assisting programs in the South Bronx neighborhood of New York. Her experiences inspired Patty to earn a law degree from Northeastern University and begin a 30-year career as a public defender, providing legal representation for those unable to afford an attorney.

She enjoyed travel and outdoor activities, which contributed to what became a true passion—birdwatching. Patty's birding trips would eventually take her to all seven continents, including Antarctica; she recorded seeing more than 7,000 species of birds.

After retiring from law, Patty began volunteering her time to protect the natural world she loved. She served on the Town of Milton Conservation Commission and volunteered for many organizations, including Mass Audubon and Trailside.

Patty's efforts have made a difference in the world around her and at the Museum. We will truly miss a dedicated supporter.


Donations in Patty's memory may be made to Trailside's Otter Exhibit Maintenance Fund. Gifts to this fund will provide a lasting legacy by helping the museum remain accessible to all and inspiring a love of nature—two ideals that Patty spent so much of her life promoting.