On the Town: Rotary honors Jack O'Neill

Just the mention of the numerals that make up this infamous day will forever conjure deep pain, sadness and anger in Americans.

And yet, while the horrors of that fateful day 12 years ago are so indelibly seared into our consciences, as the years have passed, we have also come to recognize this day as a tribute to the shining examples of heroism, patriotism, selflessness, compassion, kindness and resiliency.

On this day, as we reflect on the loss of innocent life and honor the American spirit of valor, we should also think of our local heroes — the men and woman of our municipal safety services who keep us safe and respond when safety has been breached.

We should also think of the many who have given of themselves over the years — in ways big and small — to make Burbank a better place.

Every city has those who radiate compassion or face down challenges to enhance the lives of others.

Burbank has been fortunate to have had many, one of whom is Jack O'Neill. In Burbank, the names and faces of past and present elected officials, business leaders and studio heads are, perhaps, somewhat recognizable to residents. And yet, O'Neill is one person everyone seems to know.

After almost 40 years with NBC, where he played a vital role in keeping the studios in Burbank and championing city approval of the network's West Coast facility master plan, O'Neill served as the chief operating officer of the Bob Hope Family Estate.

During that time, he became a seemingly omnipresent fixture around town. It's rare to find a Burbank resident who, at one time or another, hasn't crossed paths with O'Neill — whether he was walking neighborhoods or knocking on doors to introduce himself to residents, whether he was emceeing myriad city and charitable events or helping individuals in ways that few, other than those for whom he provided assistance and guidance, will ever know.

As they celebrated the 25th year since their charter was issued, members of the Burbank Sunrise Rotary took advantage of the occasion to honor O'Neill at their silver anniversary gala this past Saturday evening.

Held at the Burbank Holiday Inn and chaired by Greg Simay, the event that saw O'Neill named a Paul Harris Fellow also served as a fundraiser to assist Rotary International's goal of eradicating polio.

With a guest list that included representatives from numerous entities throughout the city, notables in attendance at the gala were Sunrise Rotary President Lee Stacy, Rotary District 5280 Polio Plus Chairwoman Julie Jenkins, Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy, Vice Mayor David Gordon, Councilman Bob Frutos, former Mayor Marsha Ramos, former Councilman Tim Murphy, former 44th district Assemblymember Anthony Portantino and U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, who lauded O'Neill for his decades of service to Burbank.

"Jack is an incredible person and friend who has made great contributions to our community," Schiff said. "He has earned the love and respect of the community and Burbank is a far better place because of him."


DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

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