Dennis O’Neil, a pillar of labor politics, dies
Dennis O’Neil of Litchfield, a passionate and profane booster of the political left, organized labor and the Boston Red Sox, died Friday after a lengthy illness. He was 65.
O’Neil was a fixture in Connecticut politics for 40 years, working to elect Toby Moffet to Congress in the 1970s, working on the nuclear freeze movement in the 1980s and for the house of labor ever since.
Until his retirement, O’Neil was the political director of AFSCME Council 4, the state’s largest public-employees union. He was a founder of the Connecticut Working Families.
“Dennis had the glib tongue of an Irish poet,” wrote Brian Anderson, a colleague. “He could curse a blue streak when he saw injustice. He probably could have made a fortune as a salesman, but his heart and passion led him to the labor movement.”
O’Neil was a teller of stories. One revolved around playing football for the College of the Holy Cross as a walk-on, allowing him to tell the tale of the day he tackled Larry Csonka of Syracuse, a future NFL Hall of Famer.
Csonka continued downfield, unimpeded by the skinny O’Neil, whose arms were wrapped around the full back. Csonka eventually was brought down.
O’Neil had political DNA. His sister was Betsy O’Neil, another activist, who died in 2008. They grew up in Farmington, where Betsy founded a Young Democrats chapter with Bill Curry, twice a Democratic gubernatorial nominee, and his sister, Kathleen Curry.
A remembrance will be held 6 p.m. Sunday at the Southbury Crowne Plaza Hotel.
His wife, Sam McClure, suggests that guests wear Red Sox hats.
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