Arlene R. O'Neill

March 25, 1928 ~ December 28, 2023 (age 95) 95 Years Old

Arlene O'Neill Obituary

We announce with a blend of sorrow and gratitude the peaceful passing at 95 of our mother Arlene (Merritt) O’Neill. Having resided for the past seven years at Samaritan Keep Home, she was born and raised on the northside of Watertown to Roy and Areta (Roe) Merritt. Arlene married William J. O’Neill, another Northside kid and, before divorcing, they raised five kids in Watertown, Felts Mills, and Chaumont.

Arlene, our mother, was a hard worker. Aside from being a mom full-time, she held numerous jobs to supplement the family’s income. As we grew up and moved away, Mom became a foster parent, taking in many babies and teenagers while nurturing warmth, laughter, and a sense of belonging. In her early sixties, she opened her heart and home to an adoptive daughter, Marceshia, bringing our total brood to six. 

We fondly remember Mom finger tracing (“drawing”) our faces, which we kids could never get enough of and which we have passed on to our own children and grandchildren. If you sat beside Mom, you were guaranteed a one-handed back or head scratch. Those loving scratches were a cherished source of comfort.

Mom never remarried, remaining staunchly independent and committed to each of the children – biological, foster, adopted, grandkids, and great grandchildren – in her orbit. As anyone who knew her appreciated, she was a soft-spoken force to be reckoned with, kind and generous to a fault, yet not to be trifled with. We loved her hilarious silent, nose-wriggling laugh that was uniquely hers. We kids are grateful for the values she taught us, not the least of which is a sense of humor. Ours is pretty, twisted (disclaimer: through no fault of hers) which she tolerated and even sometimes joined in on the periphery while keeping her poise. Always well put together, she carried an entire change of clothes, including shoes and a matching purse, just in case – a testament to her preparedness and style.

She loved to drive us children for hours on random back roads to interesting locations exploring for the heck of it. “Let’s see where this road leads us,” has become a mantra for many of us. She also taught us to look up at and appreciate the sky.

Even as the infirmaries of old age presented many problems for her, her tenacity, impishness, and self-deprecating humor let everyone know she was the still boss of herself. 

Arlene was predeceased by infant sister Joan Merritt, sister June Tibbles, and ex-husband William J. O'Neill, Jr. She is survived by sister Patricia Hillyard, children John (Beckie), Dennis (Tina), Patrick (Sherry), Terrie (Gus), Bill (Katrina), Marceshia, many grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. 

A celebration of life will be held for family at a time yet to be determined. Donations may be made to Samaritan Keep Home in honor of Arlene R. O’Neill. Arrangements are with D.L. Calarco Funeral Home, Inc. Online condolences may be made to 

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