Claire Williams O’Neil (1907-1980)

Claire Williams O’Neil was a native of Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, The daughter of Mary Ryan and A.J. Williams. The history of her family mirrors that of Susquehanna itself. Her ancestors migrated to the town in the 1850’s and her paternal grandfather served as a company commander in the 6th Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserve during the Civil War and fought in the battles of Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.

She graduated from Mansfield University in 1928 with a degree in education, and became an elementary school teacher in Susquehanna. She married James O’Neil of Great Bend in 1930 and raised a family of three children, then returned to teach at the Laurel Street Elementary School in 1953, where she stayed until her retirement in 1972.

Throughout her life, Claire O’Neil was a passionate advocate of the importance of education not only to the individual, but also to the community. She inspired her children, nieces, grandchildren and many former pupils to value education not only as the path to self-improvement but also as a stepping stone to serving the community.

The establishment in 2000 of a Foundation in her name celebrates not only the inspiration she gave to so many but also the long standing ties of the Williams Family to the local community.