May 4 2017: O’NEIL Louisa Watson Peat

Louisa Watson Peat O’Neil (a.k.a. Pat Peat O’Neil)


Pat Peat O’Neil 98, lifelong artist and teacher died April 30, 2017 after several years of home hospice care.  Pat is predeceased by her husband, William ‘Bill’ M. O’Neil, her parents and her beloved sisters Julianne ‘ Miki’ Ruse and Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Gladych. Pat was born in Chicago, Illinois.  Her parents, Louisa Watson Small Peat and Harold Reginald Peat were authors and lecturers who met in London during World War I. During her early childhood years Pat traveled the country with her parents and sisters on the Chautauqua speaking circuit. The family settled in Michigan City, Indiana where Pat graduated from high school. Pat graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1941. After the Pearl Harbor attack, Pat volunteered for military service.  Because US women’s forces were not serving overseas at that time, Pat volunteered for service in the Royal Air Force Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) unit recruiting women for the intelligence, communication and radar units.  After basic training in Blackpool, The WAAF recognized Pat’s Art Institute education and Pat received orders to report to Medmenham, a village in the Wycombe district located on the River Thames. The Royal Air Force stationed the Allied Central Interpretation Unit (ACIU) in Danesfield House at Medmenham. Pat was assigned to the RAF Coastal Command and worked in the ACIU photographic interpretation and processing group. During the war this unit’s interpreting and processing of reconnaissance photographs, averaged 25,000 negatives and 60,000 prints per day by 1945.  Pat was on duty at the time of the D Day invasion, where she related that the Germans were altering the fortifications hourly as shown in the daily reconnaissance photographs. She said the atmosphere was electric when the first photos of the invasion returned, and the unit realized what was happening. During her leave times, Pat would bicycle, walk, take the train and hitchhike to visit the countryside and villages, keeping multiple sketchbooks of watercolor and ink drawings. She met her future husband William O’Neil, at the base one day, when dressed in her RAF uniform, was exhorting U.S. servicemen and women to vote in the 1944 election. O’Neil was initially stationed at nearby Henley, in another intelligence group that interpreted photographs and prepared relief models for the Allied High Command and allied air forces. His group, the V Section was moved to Medmenham for the D-Day preparations. After the war Pat returned to New York City and worked as an enamellist and Instructor at the Arts Student League.  In 1948 Pat and Bill married and settled in Maryland, where they raised their five children Louisa W.P. ‘Petey’ O’Neil (Serge E.L. Salles dec.), Sara O’Neil-Manion (Bill), Rebecca ‘Becky’ Zocklein (George), Matthew John H. O’Neil and William ‘Liam/Bill’ McDowell O’Neil (Renée). Pat continued her artwork and teaching, working as the director of art in local schools including a ten-year period with the newly opened Sandy Spring Friends School in Sandy Spring. She taught for decades in the summer programs for teens at the YWCA and adult art programs for the D. C. Recreation Department at Guy Mason Center in Upper Georgetown. During the 1970s she returned to school to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Art History degree at the University of Maryland and a Master of Fine Arts at The Catholic University of America. She was an associate professor of art at Montgomery College. In 1976 she was one of the founding artists of the Torpedo Factory Art Gallery and the Enamellist Guild’s Gallery 28 at the Torpedo Factory.  Throughout her lifetime in the Washington DC area Pat would volunteer to present workshops for children and adults at various venues, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Art Barn, Wolf Trap, Glen Echo, the Folk Life Festival, the International Children’s Festival, and at faith or community centers. She was a talented inventive artist in multiple media including copper and other enameling, pottery, mosaics, jewelry, fabric weaving, crocheting and knitting, painting in oil, acrylic and watercolor as well as many crafts. Pat was known for her lively spirit, creativity and quick wit, yet she always made time for friends and helping people in need. Pat is predeceased by her husband, her sisters and her son-in-law Serge Salles. She is survived by her children, eight grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to:

Montgomery Hospice, 1355 Picard Drive Rockville, MD

Francis J. Collins Funeral Home, Inc.
500 University Blvd. West
Silver Spring, MD 20901

Phone: 301.593.9500