Happy Birthday, Earl!

Sundae Horn
Happy Birthday, Earl!

Stop by the OPS Museum this Saturday to help Earl O'Neal celebrate his 85th!

All are welcome between 1 – 2pm to sit a spell on the Museum's front porch, enjoy some tea or lemonade and cookies, and chat with Earl about his favorite subject: Ocracoke history. 

The Museum's gift shop carries Earl's extensive line of books about Ocracoke history and genealogy, and he'll be happy to sign your copies or just talk about his great love of the island and its people.

His current project is re-writing Earl W. O'Neal's Historical Almanac of the Outer Banks, which he worked on for years, but recently it was completely lost from his computer! Meanwhile, he's got some good tech support trying to restore his files.

Over the past twenty-five years he’s written over twenty books with topics ranging from Ocracoke family genealogies to island architecture, hurricanes, the U.S. Lifesaving Service, the Civil War on the Outer Banks, WWII, and his own life story. Many of Earl’s books are also available at the Ocracoke Variety Store and the NPS visitor center. He donates copies to museums and library collections; Ocracoke Library’s North Carolina room contains all his published works. 

Earl, along with Blanche Howard Jolliff and Euphemia "Phemie" Gaskins Ennis, is also featured in the 2012 National Geographic documentary "Hitler's Secret Attack on America" about U-boat activity off of Ocracoke during WWII. You can watch it on Netflix! 

The following story is from when Earl was O'Neal of the Week in March of 2012:

Earl's senior picture in 1947.
Earl's senior picture in 1947.

Earl O’Neal has literally written the book on O’Neals.

It’s one of over twenty books he’s written covering Ocracoke history and genealogy. Mention an O’Neal or two, however distantly related to the original three O’Neal brothers that settled on the island before the Revolution, and Earl will look them up in his exhaustive index. He’s got everybody in there.

Earl is a retired nuclear engineer who can trace his family’s tree back to the earliest settlers on Ocracoke. He grew up in Philadelphia, but always visited his grandparents on island, and now his home is on the same site where his grandparents’ house used to be. When he retired in 1990, he moved to the island for good. His love of island history led him to begin his writing career, and to volunteer for museums, history centers, and committees up and down the Outer Banks.

Earl has been awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, in recognition for his outstanding community service over the past twenty years.

At 82, Earl is the second oldest male O’Neal on the island. (Calvin, a former O’Neal of the Week, is the oldest.) When I dropped by to ask him some questions, he was watching basketball on TV. He turned it off immediately saying, “I hate to watch; I want to play.” Earl played football, baseball and basketball in his youth, using all of his 6 feet 5 inches to excel at sports.

Earl could press 150 lbs. a few years ago.
Earl could press 150 lbs. a few years ago.

OC: What do you eat at the Pony for breakfast every day?

Earl: One pancake, 2 soft poached eggs on top, and bacon. My niece, Cheryl Despo, brings me dinner most nights.

OC: If you couldn’t live on here, where would you live?

Earl: Over on the sound, near where Cheryl lives, on the old homestead.

OC: What if you couldn’t live anywhere on Ocracoke?

Earl: I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here.

OC: What was your favorite thing to do on Ocracoke as a kid?

Earl: Run through the woods Up Trent, or go out sailing in Uncle Wahab’s skiff.

OC: What’s your favorite thing about Ocracoke now?

Earl: Writing about it.

OC: What book are you working on now?

Earl: All of the O’Neals, from the Outer Banks, to Wake County, to all over.

OC: What’s on your iPod?

Earl: John Golden, and some of the local groups. This morning I went to church – I listened to Ivey on the radio. He preached for a whole hour this morning and did a good job.


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