New Zealand Law Society - Larry Michael O'Neill, 1932 - 2016

Larry Michael O'Neill, 1932 - 2016

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Larry O'Neill died peacefully at the Hilda Ross Retirement Village in Hamilton on 15 August 2016 aged 84 years. The legal profession has lost one of its senior members who was well respected and well liked. Including his time as a law clerk, Larry spent more than 50 years practising as a lawyer and over that time he had many clients and made many friends.

Larry was born in Hamilton in 1932 and lived on the Ruakura Training Farm where his father was head shepherd. His mother was a teacher and as a consequence he was able to read before he went to school.

When he was young, his older sister taught him how to play tennis. Tennis became a game that he enjoyed all his life, representing New Zealand as a veteran. 

He attended Hamilton High School (it was co-ed in those days) and his path to school was a gravel road (now Ruakura Road). 

Before he left High School, he was the New Zealand Junior Champion and New Zealand B Grade Champion in badminton. He left school halfway through what is now known as the 7th form, worked for the Post Office for six months and then travelled overseas, with a friend, to Australia. The purpose for travelling was initially to get to England where he wanted to see the world and play tennis. He played tennis around Australia and won some prestigious junior tournaments and then returned to New Zealand to take up law. The toss-up was between phys-ed and law, and law won out because he liked Latin. 

He started his law degree at Victoria University on a part-time basis and worked as a clerk for Reg Hardie Boys. He was working alongside Michael Hardie Boys at the same law firm.

At University he was awarded Tennis and Badminton Blues, represented Wellington at tennis and was in the Victoria University Tennis Team. At University he made some very close friends, all of whom stayed in contact with each other right throughout the years until Larry's death on 15 August 2016. 

Larry married in 1957 and returned to Hamilton to live and work, remaining there for the rest of his life.  Initially he worked for Allan Hassall and Alan Houston, eventually becoming a partner in that firm. 

Alan Houston broke away to form his own firm and the firm of Hassall O'Neill moved on, eventually being joined in practice by Lloyd Allen and Kevin Parker. 

Later the firm built its own premises in Knox Street, moved there and new partners came on board being Sean Bellamy (later to set up his own firm in Waiuku), Paul Clark, Paul Shannon, Geoff Felton and Philip Connell. 

Larry's three children all grew up in Hamilton and one of them, David, followed him into law, eventually to join him in partnership in O'Neill Allen.

Larry took up squash when he returned to Hamilton in 1957 and eventually played squash for New Zealand. Later he managed teams for New Zealand Squash, was a selector for New Zealand Squash and then more latterly was an international squash referee. 

He was involved in the building of the Squash Courts, located in Tristram Street, Hamilton, was the president of that club and eventually elected a life member. He was president of the club when it hosted the world champs in 1971 which was a huge undertaking for a club the size of Hamilton Squash Club.

Larry's involvement in the law was primarily in conveyancing and commercial law. He was a prodigious worker and always had the hands-on approach with his clients. He didn't run a "team" as such but rather worked long and hard for all of his clients and had a huge following at his peak. His former partners can attest to his output and the size of his practice because it fell on them to carry that practice when he went on sabbatical.

As indicated earlier in this obituary, Larry was eventually joined in partnership by his son David who was a litigation partner and then headed the litigation team at the firm, eventually leaving the firm in 1995 to become a barrister.

Larry's days as a partner came to an end when the firm merged with Norris Ward McKinnon and he was retained as a consultant, moving on to work as a consultant at Jon Webb's office and finally finishing his career as a lawyer when he was in his mid-70s.

Including his time as a law clerk, he spent more than 50 years practising as a lawyer and over that time had many clients and made many friends. 

Larry died peacefully at the Hilda Ross Retirement Village on 15 August 2016, aged 84 years.

He is survived by his wife Judi, his children David, Martin and Philippa and his nine grandchildren who are scattered all over the world.

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