[Thomas O'Neil, Catherine O'Neil, Isabelle O'Neil, William O'Connor]
The Second Tragedy
On November 28th 1942, Thomas O’Neil, his wife, Catherine and his sister and her date, Isabelle and Dr. William O’Connor, enjoyed an evening of dinner and dancing that only could be had at Boston’s most exciting nightclub, the Cocoanut Grove.
They had paid their bill and were getting their coats when all four were overcome by fire and smoke. Dr. O’Connor survived with burns to his hands, the O’Neils were not so fortunate. All three perished. Following the fire, Thomas and Catherine’s children Andrew 17, Joyce11 and Joanne 8 were separated and cared for by extended family. The separation of family after the fire is known to some as the “second tragedy”. It is Andrew’s children who believed that the memory of all those who perished that evening needed to be remembered in some tangible way even though 70 years had passed.
To coincide with the 70th Anniversary of the Cocoanut Grove Fire on November 28, 2012, The Thomas H. and Catherine D. O’Neil Charitable Foundation, Inc was introduced. The O’Neil grandchildren established the Foundation to raise and distribute funds for the benefit of pediatric burn victims and their families in memory of the 492 victims of the Cocoanut Grove fire. The Foundation website is located at www.oneilfoundation.org.
It was only from transcripts posted on www.cocoanutgrovefire.org that the O’Neil family recently learned of the circumstances leading up to the deaths of their paternal grandparents and grand aunt. The archivists and researchers at the National Fire Protection Association have compiled these transcripts along with many more artifacts and memories of the fire for reference by generations to come. They would surely have been lost if not for their tireless efforts. Our family can never thank them enough for their work.