The sad news of the passing of former first lady of the Territory Reverend Edris O’Neal who passed away on 24 May brought sadness to the weekend and resulted in an expected outpouring of condolences.
Reverend O’Neal was the wife of the late Premier, and Member Emeritus of the House of Assembly Hon Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE who passed away in November last year. The sad news of the former First Lady’s passing was disclosed by her daughter Abby O’Neal in a brief message. The announcement informed that Mrs. O’Neal’s passing comes after an extended period of illness and a valiant fight.
One of the first to send public condolences was Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie who referred to the departed as a distinguished former First Lady of the soil. According to the Premier Rev. Edris O’Neal, fought the good fight with all her might but has now passed on.
“She was a lady of class, who served her country with distinction in many areas, like Red Cross and other civic organizations. Service above self was her mantra while on earth. She was deeply rooted in her FAITH. Rev. Edris O’Neal loved her God and King as she served as a lay Preacher and Reverend for the Methodist Church for many years. She was a humble person but yet forthright and caring. She loved and cared for her B.V.I. with true BVI LOVE,” Premier Fahie added.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Carvin Malone in his tribute to Mrs. O’Neal said, “Following her theological studies in Jamaica and her ordination as a Methodist preacher in Guyana in 1972, I first came into the presence of Reverend Edris O’Neal, OBE in 1973-1974 as my religious education teacher at the BVI High School…Although very much accomplished in her own undertakings, lady Edris can safely be described as, the wind beneath the wings of our dearly departed Premier, Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE. Whether for her stellar work as a director of the BVI Red Cross or for her years of service on numerous governmental and non-governmental boards and committees, Rev. O’Neal’s contributions to the social, religious, political and economics of the BVI shall not be interred with her.”
Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Hon. Vincent Wheatley who is also a member of the family stated: “A British Virgin Islands’ rose has faded. As I reflect on the life of Reverend Edris O’Neal, I think about a life of service. Mrs. O’Neal dedicated her life to helping and serving the community. Her commitment to our country was outstanding and not restricted to any one effort! She wore many hats including First Lady, Reverend and Director of the British Virgin Islands Red Cross and she wore them all with grace and unending dedication.”
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon. Julian Willock stated that last year during the funeral planning for former Premier O’Neal he got to know the late Reverend and is saddened to learn of her passing: “as I chaired the committee for the state funeral for her late husband Hon O’Neal…it was truly a pleasure working with her on that occasion, as I was moved by her strength and attention to details…she knew what she wanted.”
Reverend O’Neal was a staunch supporter and stalwart of the BVI Red Cross and in response to the news of her passing the organization that she served for years gave a fitting tribute. In its tribute, the BVI Red Cross stated: “It is with a heavy heart that we advise of the passing of our long-standing former Director Rev. Edris O’Neal OBE. Mrs. O’Neal succumbed today Sunday 24th May 2020 after an extended period of illness. Mrs O’Neal served as Director from 1988 to 2011. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, British Red Cross and the BVI Red Cross mourn her passing.”