John W. O’Neil

Appointed February 15 ,1940
Died June 7, 1944
On June 6, 1944, two youths drowned in the Mississippi River when their canoe overturned while they were trying to shoot the rapids over St. Anthony Falls as a thrill stunt. A third youth was rescued by police.

One of the victims, who was home on leave from the Navy, had successfully negotiated the falls two days earlier. Higher water and a heavier current in the river, however, turned the second attempt to disaster.

Minneapolis police and the Coast Guard immediately began a search for the two missing boys without success, and they continued into the next day, June 7th, in an effort to locate their bodies.

This relentless search cost the life of Minneapolis Police Sergeant John W. O’NEIL, 47 years old, who fell from a sluiceway at the west end of the falls and drowned while attempting to recover the victim’s canoe.

Sergeant O’NEIL was a twenty-one year veteran of the police department. He lived with his wife and children at 4219 Twentieth Avenue South.

A police honor guard escorted Sergeant O’NEIL’S body when funeral services were held on June 10th at St. Helena’s Church, Forty-Third Street and Thirty-Third Avenue South. Burial was at Sunset Memorial Park.

A memorial fund for the family of Sergeant O’NEIL was set up by the Minneapolis Civic & Commerce Association.

“Sergeant O’NEIL lost his life because he was serving the city beyond requirements of duty,” the president of the association said in announcing the fund. “Although this officer was entitled to retirement with a life income, he chose to remain during the manpower shortage resulting from the inroads of war,” he said.

“We know there are a number of firms and citizens who desire to bring this man’s family some measure of relief and we have agreed to receive donations to this memorial fund. This is a voluntary movement and no drive is contemplated. Donors should make their checks payable to the fund and present them to the association.

The association president, who made a donation of $100 on behalf of the Coca Cola Bottling Company, said the association has acted in this capacity of similar occasions and any sum is acceptable.