97-year-old World War II veteran honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 7:07 AM EDT
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BAR HARBOR, Maine (WABI) - “This was a big surprise! I didn’t think anybody would show up,” said Daniel O’Neil.

Meet Daniel O’Neil, a 97-year-old World War II veteran who had a full house in attendance for receiving the Remember ME Lifetime Achievement Award Tuesday morning at Birch Bay Village in Bar Harbor.

“He was like, why me? What did I do?” April Hutchins Program Coordinator

O’Neil was selected for his service with the 44th Infantry Division which defended against the last German offensive campaign of the War in the Battle of the Bulge.

The Maine Health Care Association’s 2023 Remember ME Program honors and acknowledges the life experiences of Maine’s long-term care residents.

“Dan has just had a unique life. He doesn’t talk about it often, and when you get to talk to him, he will let you know about, he loves to talk about World War Two and just the experiences that he’s had, and with his baseball career, and the people that he’s been able to interact with,” said Hutchins.

Born and raised in Edgewater, New Jersey, O’Neill was destined for the major leagues. An impressive left handed pitcher, O’Neil was in negotiations with the New York Giants until more players from the roster were being drafted, O’Neil volunteered to sign up for the draft. He even played alongside some of the greats like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

“He’s proud of the baseball that he played in the past, but he’s not a guy who has regrets because life just is what it is, and that great generation. I mean, they just did what they were supposed to do, and I think his experience of service probably outweighed anything else that would have happened in his his career is that,” said Moira O’Neil.

Thirty-two individuals are being honored this year for their lifetime achievements.

Nominees were judged on personal story and how adversity was overcome.

“This was an event that somebody came up with to really remember people who are here among us, who we might not be noticing, you know, the people who are living in long-term care, the people in their 90s. We see them every day, and we think of them as somebody who needs help with breakfast, and not somebody who had these wonderful accomplishments in the past. So, I’m really appreciative of the Healthcare Association for taking a moment to make us all realize we have so much to learn from these folks. It really is a time right now in history when it’s good to pause, and think about all the good that people have done,” said Moira O’Neil.