November 27, 2021

Ann Rita Mae Kendrtarvich O’Neill, “Annie”


9-28-1933 – 10-17-2021

“Baby Ann” was the first-born child of an extended Lithuanian family in Worcester, Mass. She grew up on Coral Street where her parents owned a general store. With a pail and shovel she tagged along with her grandfather behind horses in the streets, collecting fertilizer. Later the family moved to Thompson, Conn., where her father taught at Marianapolis Prepartory School, then an all-boys school run by the Lithuanian Marian Fathers. The Kendrtarviches were a fixture of the Marianapolis family, hosting holiday parties and spearheading the once famed Fourth of July picnic, an annual Lithuanian event. But “Dynaflow Annie” made her mark on campus practicing her driving in her dad’s big Buick, back and forth in front of varsity football practice. She tutored one of the players, Joe O’Neill, in algebra. Later they would marry.

Annie graduated from Putnam Catholic Academy (a boarding student with a penchant for food fights). She studied one year at Amherst College then left to follow Joe’s employment as they started a family. Joe proudly joined the Connecticut State Police, working rotating shifts that changed by the week. Annie worked nights for 17 years at Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam, Conn., starting as a nursing assistant. There was always someone asleep in that house. Later, with four kids ranging from fourth grade to high school senior, Annie went back to finish a college education she had started. She graduated from Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Mass., with an AS in nursing, second in her class. She noted she was beaten out for first place by a younger student who did not have a family.

After graduation Annie continued on at Day Kimball Hospital as an RN, where she helped to build the first state-of-the-art intensive care unit. Annie was charge of the unit for several years as leader of the “Gold Team.” She was a natural mentor of new nurses and a true team player.

When not at work, Annie and Joe took to the waters of the Block Island Sound in their Trintella sloop, Duchess. Annie was an excellent navigator and kept Joe on course for years of sailing and exploring the islands all the way up to Woods Hole on Cape Cod.

Eventually Joe retired and began his long search for the perfect retirement spot. Joe called Annie at work one day and said, “Trust me.” He had found a home on Newbury Neck in Surry, Maine — the best investment he ever made. Annie called Blue Hill Memorial Hospital and Jane Smith hired her sight-unseen. Annie established herself in the small ICU there until she was recruited over to Maine Coast Memorial, where she served on the ICU team for nine years. In 1996, Annie left nursing for good to care full time for husband Joe until his death the next year at their home.

Annie was a founding member and keyboardist of the Newbury Neckolodians. The group made music and fun together for more than 20 years at local events, the Island Nursing Home, weddings and even rather lively funerals. She was also a founding member of Surry’s First Friday Dinner Club that was so popular she later helped establish the Second Friday Dinner Club. In truth Annie O’Neill was her own dinner club with a well-known reputation for the largest gatherings and most generous menus. In particular, the annual Korean dinner became a blockbuster event, serving over 100 people at times. In 2016, she took that meal to the Moore Community Center as a successful fundraiser for Friends In Action, where Annie was a regular in the Chair Yoga class.

In earlier days Annie loved walking the Neck with her best friend Mary Grimaldi. When they weren’t on the road they were behind shopping carts looking for bargains and missing Saturday confession. Later it was yard-saling with Pearl or bargain hunting with Liz. Annie was a fierce Mahjong player, never declining to play when she got a call from Nina. She loved thrilling the girls with her snacks and desserts in between sets. She was a gifted gardener and when she lost physical ability she put all her energy into flower boxes on her front deck. Each year she coaxed a splendid world of color and fragrance that filled the yard with butterflies and hummingbirds. There she held court with passing friends.

Dogs were central characters in Annie’s life. The O’Neills started rescuing failed Connecticut State Police dogs when the kids were young. In Maine, Toughy the surly Lhaso Apso, was the first of a long line of scruffy but loyal misfits. She takes their love and loyalty with her.

In addition to her husband, Joe, Annie was predeceased by Alex Trebek. She is survived by four children, Terry of Albany, N.Y., Oona Thober of Gloucester, Mass., Sean of Otis and Moira of Surry; two grandchildren, Patrick and Dennis Leary and Dennis’s wife, Aimee; and a new great-grandchild she was grateful to meet via Zoom, Eleanor Rose Leary.

Annie encouraged gifts in her memory be made to Our Companions Dog Sanctuary,, P.O. Box 956, Manchester, CT 06045 or Friends In Action Senior Center,, 5 General Moore Way, Ellsworth, ME 04605 or the Hancock County Democrats,, P.O. Box 1414, Ellsworth, ME 04605.

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