Longtime Oak Creek resident Lucy Lee O'Neal passed away Feb. 12, 2005. She was 55.
Lee was born Jan. 27, 1950, in Denver. With a bit of the luck o' the Irish, she was delivered to her parents at a time in their lives when, by all standards, they had far exceeded child-rearing age. This event itself, extraordinary in nature, culminated in the extraordinary life of this wonderfully dynamic human being.
Lee attended school in Denver and graduated from Central High School in 1968. She continued her education at Colorado State University, where she majored in art history. She received her bachelor's degree in 1972.
She then settled in Oak Creek, where she designed and built her own rustic log home. She lived in that home from 1974 until her death. Lee never married or had children. Instead, she directed her energy creatively.
With "bare bones" equipment, Lee created the Oak Creek Labor Day Shirt, completing each step of the silk screening process by hand. It became an annual tradition.
In holding with her family's extensive military background, Lee was an active lifetime member of the Ladies Auxiliary to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3311, and she gave much of her time to self-supporting military personnel, veterans and the community.
She had a true love of nature and considered the mountains hers, in which she spent much of her time camping, fishing and hiking. She hunted deer with her father and older brothers when she was younger, but those trips eventually gave way to hunting the more elusive morel mushrooms.
Lee loved to read, as is apparent by her extensive collection of books. She had great admiration for the works of renowned poets. She also had a passion for classical music, which she could close her eyes and get lost in.
She had many interests, but most meaningful and deep-rooted to her was what she shared with her sister and best friend. Although 15 years separated them, the two ladies were blessed by an uncommon and unwavering bond, almost unheard of between siblings. The core of their relationship was deeply seated in their heritage and history, which they felt drove them. The sisters accompanied each other on two trips to Ireland, where they embraced their ancestral homeland and soaked up their heritage. They returned from these trips, which were the highlights of their lives, dripping with their heritage.
Those acquainted with Lee understood how she valued her privacy, which she obtained through self-inflicted solitude. But she also was delighted in good company and interesting conversation. Strange? Complex? Eccentric? Artist!
It's been commonly said that Lee was born 100 years too late. Her space was filled with trinkets and furnishings of yesteryear and the simple ambiance of days gone by and eras past, of places in time more comfortable and suited for her. This was apparent in her artwork. Unfortunately, too few precious pieces remain that reveal her true mastery of her instrument.
But within those penciled masterpieces may her legacy be realized. To those of us with privileged sight, the very essence of Lee's soul becomes visible, and we are honored.
"It's not what you see, but how you see it."
Lee was preceded in death by her parents, A.W. and Lucinda O'Neal; a brother, Ralph O'Neal; and a sister, Eileen O'Neal.
She is survived by a brother, Carl O'Neal of Arizona; two nieces, Michelle Ross and her family and Susan Sassano and her family of Iowa; and several other nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Lee's life took place Feb. 20, 2005, at the Colorado Bar and Grill in Oak Creek.