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Sonoma loan agent, philanthropist Kevin O’Neill dies at 68

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Kevin O’Neill, who was widely known throughout Sonoma Valley for both his long-time stature as a top home loan officer and his philanthropy, died on Nov. 14 from complications resulting from a blood clot. He was 68.

According to Dawn O’Neill, his wife of 25 years, the couple were driving through Sacramento early last week when he began to have trouble speaking. Dawn immediately drove to the nearest hospital, where doctors found that Kevin had suffered a blood clot and was in the midst of a massive stroke. He passed away peacefully in the hospital a few days later.

Dawn said that their last words in the car were about their life together.

“He turned to me and was saying to me how much he loved the life we had built together and our girls,” she said. “And then, he just couldn’t speak.”

The O’Neills have two twin daughters, Piper and Katie, age 16, who attend Justin-Siena High School in Napa.

In several Facebook posts since his passing, Kevin is described by his friends and real estate colleagues as a legend in the business. He was most recently area sales manager and senior loan consultant at Bay Equity Home Loans.

Over the course of his 30 year career in real estate finance, Kevin held senior positions as Stearns Lending, HomeStreet Bank, Provident Bank Mortgage, Met Life Home Loans and Bank of American. He began his career in finance at Washington Mutual Bank in San Francisco, where he worked for 17 years. Dawn said that for many years at Washington Mutual and at American Savings, he was the top producing loan officer in the country for these companies.

Kevin O’Neill was born April 4, 1950 in Philadelphia and grew up in Saratoga, California. At 6 feet 4 inches tall, he was a basketball star at Belmont High School. After college, he joined the Marine Corps. and later worked as a roughnecker on an oil rig in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In his 30s, he moved to Sonoma where his parents, Bernard and Janet O’Neill were living on Napa Road. He joined American Savings as a local officer, where he worked for his father.

Kevin and Dawn met in 1987 in Sonoma and Dawn said it was love at first sight. He was her loan officer on a property she owned in Boyes Hot Springs.

“On our second date, he told me he wanted to marry me,” she said. “It was instant love.”

She described him “such a sweet tender person,” who was also intensely private and exceptionally devoted to his daughters.

“He would turn down countless invitations to socialize because he said that all he really wanted to do after work was to spend time with the girls and with me,” she said. “He loved them more than anything in the world.”

Widely known in Sonoma for his philanthropy, Kevin was a longtime supporter of Presentation School, the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, of which he was a board member and honored as its “Sweetheart” in 2006.

“Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley was deeply sadden to hear of the passing of Kevin O’Neill,” said Cary Dacy, CEO. “He was a champion of BGCSV for more than 30 years and his dedication and generosity has changed the lives of so many Sonoma Valley youth. We are forever grateful for not only his support, but his friendship. He has left his mark with our Club and his memory and legacy will live on in our hearts and in our organization for years to come.”

Sonoma City Councilmember Amy Harrington counted Kevin as a close friend and said that he was one of the first people she met when she moved to Sonoma a decade ago.

“He was instantly likable,” she said. “He was down to earth and loved to have fun. He liked history and politics and work and most of all he loved his family. It’s hard to believe he’s gone.”

Kevin’s best friend David Ashburn said that Kevin believed in living life to the fullest.

“His friends and those that knew him well enjoyed his lust for life and his enthusiasm,” said Ashburn. “He loved his family with all his heart especially his wife and two daughters whom he cherished. Kevin will be missed but he will not be forgotten by any of us who knew him.”

Kevin is survived by Dawn, Piper, Katie and his three siblings, Brian, Breck and Janet O’Neill.

Friends are invited to attend a Memorial Mass in his honor at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 30, at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, 601 Agua Caliente Road. There will be a celebration of life after the service. The location is still to be determined,

Donations may be made to the “Piper and Katie O’Neill College Fund” c/o Exchange Bank, 435 West Napa St., Sonoma, CA 95476.

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.