The following is one of several Collegeside member profiles written by Donna Smith over a period of several years. They tell the personal stories of some of our long-time members, some of whom are living and some of whom have gone on to be with their Lord. Their personal stories are an important part of the historical fabric of Collegeside.
Bill O’Neal’s 42 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began when a friend of his dad’s asked, “Why don’t you quit running all over the country with your job and come down here and help me build Center Hill Dam?”
“So I did,” remembers Bill. Thus began a career as resource manager for Corps of Engineers dams, including Center Hill, Cordell Hull, Dale Hollow, and Wolf Creek. Bill still talks about working seven days a week to get Center Hill Dam completed by 1948. He was in charge of all government-furnished materials for the construction, and he daily climbed to the top and inspected the 28 concrete monoliths as they grew 5 or 6 feet a day.
His former job with Goodrich Rubber Company had required too much travel, but it did bring him to Cookeville. And Cookeville was where he met Aline, his wife for 49 years until her death in 1989.
Bill remembers first seeing Aline at the old Gulf filling station on the square. The two were married just one month before he was drafted for service in the Pacific in WWII. While Bill was in Manila, Aline managed her stockyard in Algood.
Bill and Aline were involved in both the old Broad Street Church of Christ and the beginning of Collegeside when it was established to be close to the students at TTU. He served many years as head of Building and Grounds for the church property. Bill has many pleasant memories of Collegeside, including the weddings of his two daughters, Betty and Peggy. He now has five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Bill’s grandfather was a doctor in Giles County, where Bill grew up with his three brothers and one sister. The family also spent some time in St. Petersburg, Florida, while his father worked as a contractor during the Depression years.
Bill served as Commander of the National Guard Unit in the Cookeville area and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. The treasured family photos covering walls and shelves of his den share space with the many citations, both military and civilian, that have been awarded to Bill O’Neal for a lifetime of service.
His sister, Marjorie Miller, remembers hearing that Bill was an officer who could call you in and chew you out royally and never use a word of profanity. When Marjorie’s husband, who was Adjutant General of Oregon at the time, died suddenly, Bill was there for her. She remembers another tribute paid to Bill during that time: When the first lady of Oregon met Bill, she said that at last she had met a real Southern Gentleman.
When asked what advice he would give young people, Bill said, “Go to church and behave yourself!”
Be sure to wish him a happy birthday on June 5. He will be 90 years old!