By Marilyn Stewart
In her 28 years of dedication to the NOBTS housekeeping services, Opal O’Neal has seen a lot of change and seen many come and go. A reception Wed., Dec. 14, honors O’Neal as she begins a new chapter in life of her own—retirement.
For all who know her, O’Neal has earned a special place in their hearts.
“Mrs. Opal is family,” said Elizabeth Cole Terrill, daughter of Dr. Dennis and Mrs. Pam Cole. “I have known her since I was a kid, and she has watched me grow up, get married, and has now watched my children grow up.”
The reception will be held in the Creole Room, 1:45 p.m. to 3 p.m. Faculty, staff and students are invited to attend.
O’Neal, a native New Orleanian, was asked to work for Dr. Landrum and Joann Leavell and care for the President’s home soon after she began her employment at NOBTS. When Dr. Leavell retired, O’Neal moved to Dodd.
Terrill, one of several faculty and staff children whom O’Neal watched grow up, said O’Neal has been a constant source of encouragement to her.
“She always has a kind word or piece of advice for me,” Terrill said. “I could write a book called ‘Opal’s Words of Wisdom’ from all the pearls of wisdom she has shared with me over the years.”
Longtime friend Karen Curtis, janitorial supervisor, quipped that O’Neal “likes to give advice.” Curtis praised O’Neal for her willingness to tackle any task and noted that she shows kindness to everyone she meets. Curtis reminisced of how O’Neal had encouraged her through her own trials of life.
“She has been a big help to me,” Curtis said. “She’s a good friend.”
When the campus reopened after Hurricane Katrina, Curtis said O’Neal was the first employee she contacted to ask to come back.
Through her position at Dodd, O’Neal came to know faculty members, as well.
“Opal O’Neal is one of the reasons I can succeed in what I do,” Dr. Lloyd Harsch said. “She always had a quick smile and a kind word for the day. I am going to miss her greatly. I see her as my friend and colleague as we fulfill the mission of the seminary together.”
While O’Neal has demonstrated her willingness to go the extra mile at her job, it is her spirit of encouragement that sets her apart, Terrill said. On more than one occasion, Terrill found O’Neal consoling or encouraging a female student she found crying in the restroom.
“She is a strong woman with a heart for the Lord,” Terrill said. “She has a heart of gold and truly cares about our students. Our building will not be the same without her.”