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 16, Joyce 15, Joanne 10 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 that, even after 70 years, thought that the memory of all those that perished that night needed to be remembered in some tangible way. Hence the establishment of and family commitment that is the Thomas H. and Catherine D. O’Neil Charitable Foundation.
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 patients and their families in memory of all the 492 victims of the Cocoanut Grove fire.
Benefactors of our foundation will be:
- Affected children and their families
- Massachusetts General Hospital / Sumner Redstone Burn Center
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital Burn Center
- The Shriners Hospital For Children
Tomlinson & O’Neil Insurance Agency, on behalf of the agency’s local employees and clients announce a commitment to the Foundation in the sum of $25,000
Below are the three pages of transcript captured from the interviews done with the survivors and first responders shortly after the fire. It was only from these pages 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.
Please visit cocoanutgrovefire.org.