Wyatt “Gilbert” O’Neal, 96, passed away on Sunday, May 21. A gathering of family and friends will be held at noon on Saturday, July 1, 2023, at The Landing of Parkwood Village, 1730 Parkwood Boulevard, Wilson.
Gilbert was the oldest son of Benjamin Berry Ross O’Neal and Lucy Thomas O’Neal. He was born on the O’Neal farm in Edgecombe County on October 10, 1926. He graduated from Leggett High School (now North Edgecombe High School) in 1943. From 1943 until 1947, he served in the US Navy. From 1948 until 1953, he was a member of the NC State Highway Patrol, stationed in Woodland, NC. In 1953, he joined the North Carolina Department of Insurance as a Fraud and Arson Investigator and served in that capacity until promoted to Supervisor in 1955. He was promoted to Chief Investigator in 1958, a position he held until retiring on September 30, 1977.
From October 1, 1977 to October 1, 1988, he was a Special Agent in North Carolina with the Insurance Crime Prevention Institute (ICPI) whose headquarters were in Westport, Connecticut. His responsibilities included the investigation of suspected fraudulent insurance claims in conjunction with law enforcement personnel. He retired from ICPI on October 1, 1988.
Gilbert lectured at Law Enforcement, Arson and Insurance seminars in thirty-one states, including the Southern Police Institute, the International Claims Association, the International Association of Arson Investigators, International Association of Identification Officers, International Association of Credit Card Investigators, and is an Honorary Life Member of the North Carolina Adjusters Association, honorary Life member of the North Carolina Association of Accident and Health Underwriters and an Honorary Life Member of the North Carolina Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators. He is a past member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Arson Investigators.
Gilbert was an avid golfer. He was a charter member of Bentwinds Country Club. He had six holes in one and was pleased to have played several famous courses, including The Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland, the Augusta National course in Augusta, Georgia, Pebble Beach, California, and Pinehurst #2. He said he only played golf on days that end in a “y.” Gilbert was a member of the “Dog Fight” at Bentwinds for many years.
Gilbert is survived by his former wife, Virginia Brett O’Neal of Charlotte; sons, James Wyatt O’Neal (Linda) of Chapel Hill and Gary Ross O’Neal (Jane) of Charlotte; grandsons, Dr. Jason B. O’Neal (Sarah), Dr. Wesley T. O’Neal (Kristen), and Derrick R. O’Neal (Milagros), DPT and Lieutenant Commander, US Navy; and five great-grandchildren.
Gilbert was preceded in death by his brothers, Berry T. O’Neal of King, NC and William Earl O’Neal of Nashville, TN.