Community mourns passing of Doyle O’Neil
Moffat County residents fondly recall ways O'Neil learned about, helped community
Craig — Over the last few years, Nicole Chesley watched a new qualilty emerge in the personality of her father, Doyle O’Neil.
“Craig, Colorado took the corporate out of him and made him a cowboy,” Chesley said. “He didn’t know he was a cowboy until he got here.”
O’Neil, 62, died on Friday of complications from heart disease. Chesley said he is survived by her and by his grandsons Tanner and Jacob Chesley. He is also survived, she said, by his stepchildren Nicole Lumley and Rick Lumley.
Nicole Chesley said O’Neil was preceded in death by his parents, his sister and his grandson, Tyler Chesley.
A service is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Lighthouse of Craig on Wednesday, followed by a fellowship dinner at the Hampton Inn & Suites.
“I would say that Doyle is the most giving person I have ever met,” said Nicole Lumley, stepdaughter to O’Neil. Lumley, who lives in Connecticut, described O’Neil as helping out other family members and going with her to father-daughter dances and other activities.
O’Neil was born in Massachusetts, Nicole Chesley said, and he spent much of his childhood in Arizona. After coming to Craig about three years ago to work as general manager of the Hampton Inn & Suites, he wove a wide web of friends and colleagues in the community — people who collaborated with him on various projects.
Melody Villard, director of tourism for the Moffat County Tourism Association, was among those who worked with O’Neil to coordinate Grand Olde West Days in Craig this year.
The longtime event was in danger of ending, Villard explained, when O’Neil sparked a movement to keep it going.
“The ball was in the community’s court, whether it happened again, or whether it was the last year for Grand Olde West Days,” Villard said. “This was kind of a new start, new committee, new entertainment, new location.”
O’Neil worked on a committee organizing this year’s Grand Olde West Days, held in May, with Villard, Rand Selle and Kristen Olson.
“Doyle was a big-idea person,” Olson said. “He was very imaginative, and he knew the people to go to in order to make sure it got done.”
Olson, community impact coordinator for Moffat County United Way, worked for O’Neil for about a year when she was director of sales and assistant general manager for the Hampton Inn & Suites. She also served with him on the MCTA Board of Directors.
Villard said O’Neil relished learning about the community as he plunged into various activities. Chesley agreed. Chesley lives in Phoenix, but she was in town on Tuesday, reflecting with Villard on O’Neil’s life.
“He’d get the 4-H book from one of the kids, and he would read through it,” Chesley said with a chuckle.
Commitment to community
As Shannon Moore talked about Doyle O’Neil, she noted a commitment that went beyond immediate interests. O’Neil was the general manager of Hampton Inn & Suites, in Craig, and Moore is the assistant general manager and director of sales for the Clarion Inn & Suites.
Moore described O’Neil’s concern for other hotel businesses, aside from his own.
“We were all doing well because he knew that the success of one meant the success of another,” Moore said.
She described O’Neil’s kindness as far-reaching.
“Doyle was just that all-around good guy,” she said, noting that he could calm someone down going through a rough patch. “He really was almost like a father figure to anybody who was around him.”
Moore also worked with O’Neil when she was membership director for the Craig Chamber of Commerce, and she recalled the way he absorbed the details of a new community.
“He always seemed very relaxed, but he took it in on that first shot,” she said. She also recalled something that took place a few months after he arrived in Craig.
“He came into the Chamber and said, ‘Guess what? I’m a local now,’” she recalled him announcing. At the time, she pressed him to explain.
“I just bought a cow,” he said.
Willingness to converse
Moore depicted a friendship with O’Neil that transcended differences in opinion, such as positions on the Moffat County Local Marketing District.
“The LMD was a tough pill to swallow for a lot of lodging members because it increased our tax 4 percent on hotel rooms,” she said. “But he saw the big picture of ‘We’ve got to have economic diversification.’ He supported it, and he wholeheartedly supported it. He and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye on that, but it was OK. He always had good points, and we’d banter back and forth. It was good for both of us.”
Tammie Thompson-Booker, director of sales and marketing at Candlewood Suites in Craig, also attested to O’Neil’s warmth as he interacted with others.
“Doyle was just a super-genuine nice guy,” she said. “No hidden agenda. Just honest and friendly and welcoming. You never had to be on guard with Doyle.”
Thompson-Booker noted, too, his capacity to discuss issues in a friendly manner.
“Even though Doyle and I may not agree on everything, I still could sit down with him and have a conversation,” she said. “He was just a nice guy.”
Thompson-Booker serves as chair of the board of directors for the Moffat County Tourism Association — and O’Neil, she said, was a valued member of the board.
Thompson-Booker noted O’Neil’s work with Grand Olde West Days and the care he took to be inclusive in acknowledging other businesses.
“He made sure that my hotel and every other hotel got recognition,” she said.
Community members note O’Neil’s generosity
Kaitlyn Shipley, director of sales for Hampton Inn & Suites in Craig, said O’Neil came to her family events and listened hard whenever people needed to talk.
“Doyle was, honestly, probably the most generous person I have met in my entire life,” she said. “It didn’t matter if (he were interacting with) a guest or an employee.”
Shipley noted the way Doyle let a family stay at the hotel for free in January after family members had lost their home and many belongings in a fire. And she mentioned, too, that he’d developed a plan to place emergency phone numbers on the Hampton Inn & Suites billboard for people in crisis.
“We had just started working on the project for our billboard, which I plan on carrying out because it meant a lot to him,” Shipley said.
Rand Selle, owner of Selle Rodeo Productions, worked with O’Neil on Grand Olde West Days.
“He helped me out more ways than I could ever list,” Selle said, noting the way O’Neil helped to revive the event this year.
“He remembered his childhood and how important those social events were to the community,” Selle said.
Selle, too, reflected on O’Neil’s generosity.
“The thing that really stands out about Doyle is his caring personality,” Selle said. “He would bend over backwards to help you out. If you needed help, he was never going to turn you down.”
Nicole Chesley reiterated O’Neil’s desire to be inclusive — in actions and in discussion.
“He wanted people to feel validated in their opinions,” Chesley said.
Villard worked with O’Neil on community-related projects through her position as the MCTA’s director of tourism, but she also worked for about a year as a part-time night auditor at the Hampton Inn & Suites. So, she saw his working manner from multiple angles.
“He was always concerned about everyone else’s feelings,” Villard said. “He didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings; he didn’t want anyone mad at him. He always wanted to be the peacekeeper.”
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