Born in Camberwell London on St. Stephen’s Day in 1931, Sheila was the youngest of three children born to Terence and Lilian O’Shaugnessy. They lived in London until the outbreak of war when Sheila and her siblings were evacuated not once but three times. She stayed at Storrington, Weymouth and finally Bath where they stayed until her father who worked for the Admiralty was transferred to Bath to join them with their mother.
After the war Sheila returned to London and lived with her Aunts when she started work at the Forestry Commission.
In 1959 She married Tom O’Neill and moved to Marquis Close in Wembley where they lived happily for 50 years. They had three children, Elizabeth, Margaret and Terry. Tom and Sheila were regular attendees at St Joseph’s Church until the children came along and they were faced with a long walk to Church every week. With young children, Sheila and Tom started organising for masses to be said at their local community centre. They ran this service for thirty years and as a result were both awarded the Bene Merenit medal. Originally established as an award to soldiers in the Papal Army, the medal was later extended to the clergy and the laity for service to the church. They also helped with preparing teenagers for confirmation.
When she went back to work, Sheila spent several years at GEC Claudgen followed by various administration and accountancy roles. When she retired in 1992 she had been working at P&0 in the financial department at Earls Court exhibition centre.
Sheila was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, despite the severity of the condition she refused to let it beat her and insisted on constant exercise and physiotherapy.
Sheila’s family meant the world to her and she always put them first and foremost, not a day went by when she wouldn’t ask about the progress of school or exam results.
With their deteriorating health Tom and Sheila moved to East Grinstead in 2008 to be near Terry and Sam and her three grandchildren. They moved to Stildon Mews and were very happy there. Sheila often remarked that they had moved at the right time, so that they were fit and well enough to get involved in the community and join the parish of Our Lady and St Peter where they were very content.
When Tom died in 2014, Sheila at 82 years old had a whole new set of challenges. Her MS was prevalent at this time but she was determined to stay as independent as she could without being a burden on the family. She continued to stay at the Mews with a live in helper and continued with parish events, book clubs, Stildon activities and more.
Sheila’s favourite time of year was Christmas, some might think that this was something to do with having Christmas and her birthday on consecutive days but it was really having the family all together for days at a time. Last Christmas was a very special time. When she joined in with the Jesus versus Santa game with all the family!
However shortly after Christmas Sheila fell ill and was admitted to hospital, she had a tough last few months but faced every difficulty with courage and positivity. Her tenacity was rewarded when she was finally discharged from hospital in May returned to Stildon. Not well enough yet to return to the flat she was cared for by the wonderful dedicated staff at the nursing home who looked after her with love and dignity. She was very happy to be among the friends she had made during her time in the Mews.
She was also well enough to attend the confirmation ceremony of Joseph and Dominic at Worth Abbey in May. Once again she was surrounded by her family and although exhausted, she thoroughly enjoyed her day.
At all times the love for her family, her faith and her sheer determination kept her going, she started making lists again, played memory games and even the week before she died she was cussing her legs for not working properly during her physio session.
So how do we describe Sheila Elizabeth Maureen O’Neill? Wife, Mother, Grandmother, faithful, Intelligent, loving, stubborn, intelligent and above everything courageous. She will be sorely missed and remembered forever by her family. Now she is reunited with her best friend, Tom and those she loves who have gone before. Although she is missed here on earth we know that her never-ending and devoted faith means that she will forever be looked after in the arms of Jesus our Saviour.