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John Robert O’Neal

January 13, 1936 — April 23, 2021

John Robert O’Neal 85, passed unexpectedly in his sleep at home on Friday, April 23, 2021. He was born at Little Griffin Hospital in Valdosta, Georgia on January 13, 1936 to the late Lonnie James O’Neal and "Peggy" Zeuleita Haynes Forrest O’Neal. John R. O’Neal was a lifelong resident of Lowndes County, Georgia.
John attended Valdosta High School following along with the O’Neal’s family tradition of being a Wildcat Football player. While playing for the Valdosta Wildcats he assisted with winning 3 state championships, 4 South Georgia State Championships, 4 Region Championships, and voted Most Popular Player in 1953. After having a momentous high school football record, he was offered several scholarships to a number of colleges and universities. John accepted the offer from Georgia Technical College. Once he was injured, he got rehabilitated at South Georgia College in Douglas, Georgia. While playing for South Georgia College in 1958, he met the love of his life, a student librarian when he was checking out a book, her name is Annette Bryant. They were happily married for 63 years and lived in Valdosta, Georgia. In 1958, they had a beautiful daughter, Peggy Anne O’Neal.
John Robert O’Neal began his life long career with the Valdosta Fire Department as a third-generation fire fighter. He was the Training Lieutenant for several decades. Like many other firemen he had other occupations he did on his days off. John worked at Voigt’s Sheet Metal. John was also a contractor where he built and repaired homes in the Valdosta area. He with several of his co-workers from the Valdosta Fire Department built homes in the Valdosta Area for many years. He retired from the Valdosta City Fire Department in 1998 after 40 years of loyal service.
Over the years John and Annette were members of several social groups a few were the Kat Kickers square dancing group, Woodmen of the World, and the Elks Club to name a few. Throughout the years his love for fishing was great. From freshwater to saltwater he loved it all. John and his father, Lonnie James O’Neal, won many Lowndes County fishing tournaments. Along with his love for fishing John accompanied his father with researching and documenting their O’Neals’ family history. He followed in his father’s footsteps with researching their family history with his daughter and granddaughter. Part of the O’Neal family history was being a well accomplished Valdosta Wildcats Football Players. Like his father and uncles before him John was inducted into the Valdosta Wildcat Hall of Fame in 2007.
John is survived by two granddaughters Gina Nicole Hutchinson of Valdosta and Nicole Victoria Szymanski of Venice, Florida; Son-in-law Chester “Chet” Raymond Szymanski Jr. of Venice, Florida; great-grandchildren Zane Luis Hutchinson-Belberena and Abreanna Nicole Hutchinson-Belberena of Valdosta, Ga.; sister Mary Lucille Jacobs of Hahira, Ga. and many nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife Annette Bryant O’Neal, his parents, Lonnie James O’Neal and "Peggy" Zeuleita Haynes Forrest O’Neal and daughter Peggy Anne Szymanski; step-mother Mildred Day O’Neal; Brother-in-law Hubert “Hugh” Jacobs Sr.; paternal-grandparents John Robert O’Neal Sr. and Maude Lee McLeod O’Neal; maternal-grandparents Peter James “PJ” Forrest and Beatrice Coladen Belvin Forrest.
Viewing will be at 10:00-11:00 am, Saturday, May 1, 2021, at Carson McLane funeral home. Funeral services will follow at 11:00 am in the chapel of Carson McLane with Rev. Rick Williams officiating. Burial will follow in Sunset Cemetery in Valdosta, Ga. Condolences to the family may be made online at www.mclanecares.com. The family wishes for any donations to be made to Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation in honor of Lieutenant John Robert O’Neal. https://www.gfbf.org/

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