On Saturday 13 June 2020 citizens and residents of the British Virgin Islands from Anegada to
Jost Van Dyke paid their last respects to Rev. Edris O’Neal, OBE, (1942-2020) 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 Thanksgiving Service in celebration of the life of Rev.
O’Neal was held at the Road Town Methodist Church.
The dear departed was one of ten children born to Alexander and Miriam Christopher of
Todman’s Village, Tortola. In her younger years, Edris distinguished herself in Athletics
becoming a Victrix Ludorum for four consecutive years. After working for several years as a
Clerk of the BVI Government, Edris joined the staff of Barclays Bank where she worked as the
Her association with the Methodist Church dates back to her childhood; in the course of time,
she became a Sunday School teacher, Secretary of the Youth Fellowship, and Local Preacher.
She later accepted the call to full-time service in the church and spent three years at the
United Theological College of the West Indies in Jamaica. After her graduation, she was
appointed to the Georgetown Circuit of the Guyana District and later served for a short time
in the Panama Costa Rica District. Rev. O’Neal served in Guyana for three years and was later
transferred to the Leeward Islands District where she served in the BVI Circuit.
Her education was expanded as she embarked on studies in the USA where she graduated as
Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in School Administration. Back at home, Rev. O’Neal was
busy in some aspects of community life. In fact, she served in various committees and on the
St. George’s School Board.
In a printed tribute BVI Premier Hon. Andrew Fahie described the dear departed as “a
distinguished former First Lady of the soil and a woman of class who served the BVI with
distinction in many areas including the Red Cross and many civic organisations…she was also
the greatest support for Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal while he served as Leader of Government
Business, Leader of the Opposition and in the O’Neal Group of Companies.”
She has been described by Deputy Premier and Minister for Health and Social Development
Hon. Carvin Malone 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 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.”
In 2003, Rev. O’Neal was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen with an O.B.E. (Order of the
British Empire); before that she had received the Humanitarian Award by the BVI Hotel and
Commerce Association in 2001; in 2008, the Lions Club of Tortola honoured her as Citizen of
the Year, and in 2009 was elevated to the highest Rotary honour as Paul Harris Fellow of the
Rotary Club of Tortola.
In a public announcement 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.”
In his printed tribute to Rev. O’Neal, Past President of the BVI Red Cross, Michael Riegels QC,
noted that “It is difficult when writing about someone like the late Edris O’Neal not to run
out on superlatives…as Director of the BVI Red Cross for 22 years starting in 1989,…Edris’ role
was not only to inspire and lead her willing team of volunteers…she was a major
fundraiser…and persuaded the Government to donate a building to the Red Cross.”
Many condolences have been posted on Facebook; well-known BVI writer and former Chief
Librarian Verna Penn-Moll noted that: “Rev O’Neal was a gift to us all. She has served the
Church, the community, humanity extremely well. There’s a void in our hearts right now that
only God can fill. We will miss her goodness, yet our memories of her will live on. Death
cannot destroy them. She is now resting with her Maker, whom she loved and served so well.
Deep, deep condolences to Abby. God will hold you in His arms and give you peace.”
The publishers, management and staff of The Island Sun express the sincerest and deepest
condolences to the Family and friends of Reverend Edris O’Neal, may her golden soul Rest In