Patrick O'Neill Obituary (1941 - 2019)

By O'Neill Family | May 31, 2019, 12:34 p.m. (ET)
Patrick O’Neill started playing hard bat table tennis in the bowling alleys of Toledo, Ohio as a teenager in the 50’s.  He soon developed a lifelong passion for the game and eventually earned national ranking cards in both the Under 14 and 16 age divisions. He was so enamored of the game that he even managed to spend time on his honeymoon with wife Kathleen in NYC visiting Reisman’s Club at 96th and Broadway. 

In 1972, during the era of Ping-Pong Diplomacy, he took his family to Cole Field House in Maryland to cheer for the home team. His eager 5-year-old son asked, “When are you going to go out on the table to beat the Chinese?” Not that day, but four years later Pat and son participated in a local single elimination tournament in Arlington, VA both losing to Richard Shrout of the Northern Virginia Table Tennis Club. 
 
Pat’s table tennis bug was rekindled that night and with son Sean, became regular members of the NVTTC playing on Tuesday and Friday nights at the Lubber Run Rec Center on a half dozen Nissen tables. Winners stayed up and everyone had their own circular ringed name tags placed on a peg board dictating the next player up. Players like Hoey, Crespi, Kaminsky, Louie, Shrout, Stakes, Valliant, Chapman, Sussman, Olson, Hussain, Lockhart, and Evenson could be found playing on the slippery tiled floor from 6-10 pm or until the janitor told them to fold up the tables. Pat discovered that the game he loved had advanced beyond recognition with the advent of sponge rubber and lightening fast loops.
 
The Eastern Open in 1976 was played at Parkdale HS in New Carrollton, MD.  From the bleachers Pat sat fascinated by two players from Thailand, Charlie Wuvanich and Chuchai Chan. Their daring high toss serves and honed smashes left him in awe. As fate would have it, they were in need of some local hospitality and Pat gladly opened his home to them.  That occasion in turn, opened the door to world class table tennis for the O’Neill family...a door that never closed.   After the tournament Charlie and Chan convinced Pat and Kathy that taking their promising eight year old son to Magoo’s Table Tennis Club in Minneapolis for six weeks would be a smart move in his table tennis development. 
 
The ’76 US Open in Philadelphia was next up and due to a players strike Pat made the final 32 of Men’s Singles, losing to Chicago’s Jim Lazarus. Sean got to play Brandon Olson in the Under 11s and Surbek and Douglas put on a great show in the semi’s!  After the Open, Sean went off to Minnesota, running daily around Powederhorn Park, playing six hours a day with Brandon Olson, the Bakers, Jeff Durand and various out-of-state campers like Mike Baber, Tom Wintrich, Scott & Richard Butler, Cheryl & Paul Dadien, Hank Widick and  Cameron Scott.  
 
Participating in the inaugural US Closed (1976) in December followed a trip to the 1977 Birmingham Worlds as spectators continued expanding the O’Neills world of table tennis. Regular visits to Bowie Martin’s Butterfly Club in Wilson, NC as well as Thanksgiving trips to Cobo Hall in Detroit became the norm for the family along with drives to the CNEs, Easterns, and Atlanta Fairgrounds. The NVTTC now played out of the Washington Tennis Center in McLean, VA along with David and Donna Sakai.  Charlie Wuvanich moved back to Thailand and Chan moved into the O’Neill’s spare room and worked with Sean daily.  India’s Monty Merchant followed Chan as live-in coach and mentor for Sean.  Chan and Monty raised the level of play and coaching in Virginia and had many appreciative students.
 
The ’78 US Open in Oklahoma City opened another international door for the O’Neills. Nisse Sandberg of the Angby Sports Club invited Sean to Stockholm which led to Lars Mattsson becoming a new summer guest and player in the O’Neill basement.
 
Patrick willingly opened his home to countless table tennis enthusiasts. Players: Jimmy Butler, Dhiren Narotam, Larry Hodges, Rich Martin, Barry Dattel, Mitch Rothfleisch, Fred King, Perry Schwartzberg, Tim Boggan, Jens Felke, Vichai Limpisrivanich plus a ton of Swedes and many more enjoyed the O’Neill hospitality on a regular basis. 
 
The one house guest that made the greatest impact on Patrick’s life was Chartchai “Hank” Teekaveerakit.  After returning to Thailand, Charlie and Chan coached Hank to become the Thai National Champion while still a junior. They  asked the O’Neills if they would be willing to host 17 year old Hank as a training partner for Sean.  
 
Hank became a valued member of the O’Neill family learning English, how to drive, becoming the US National Champion, graduating from college and getting an MBA during his seven year stay. Hank’s loving relationship with Pat was never more evident when during Patrick’s final breath at hospice Hank via FaceTime, was alongside Kathleen, daughter Molly and Sean wishing Pat a final farewell.
 
Patrick loved table tennis and had a strong desire to see it gain its rightful recognition. He served on the USATT Board of Directors and traveled to Cuba, Venezuela, China, Sweden, and Korea in assisting Team USA. 
 
The O’Neill family sincerely thanks all the friends that have reached out to share their thoughts and prayers of Pat.  In lieu of flowers, contributions to Hope Hospice/Joanne’s House of Bonita Springs, Florida or the Duke Cancer Institute, Lung Cancer Program are appreciated.