Fort Worth, Texas – Walter Lee O’Neil passed away peacefully in Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday, April 29, 2021 at the age of 89.
A memorial service will be held in The Chapel at Arborlawn United Methodist Church in Fort Worth on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 at 4:30 PM. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to your favorite charity.
He was born in the Texas Panhandle town of Wellington (founded in 1889 by his grandfather, Ernest T. O’Neil) on April 27, 1932 to Austin “Polly” O’Neil and Leatrice Dean O’Neil. After graduating from Wellington High School, Walter briefly attended college before joining the Navy. He was attached to the First Marine Division as a medic during the Korean War, earning several commendations during his service. Walter also played football and baseball for the Marine Corps during his time in the Marines and Navy.
Upon his honorable discharge from the service, Walter attended the University of Texas at Austin on football/baseball scholarship. After a year at Texas, he transferred to Highland University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. While at Highlands, Walter was a star football and baseball player Upon his graduation from Highlands, Walter was presented with an opportunity to join the Green Bay Packers of the NFL but instead chose to attend law school at American University in Washington, DC. During this time in law school Walter met his future bride, Susan Emily Tillis of Elizabeth City, NC. After graduating from American University Law School in December 1961, Walter and Susan were married on January 2, 1962. Walter and Susan moved to Orlando, FL, for Walter’s new job with Martin-Marietta, which would begin his decades-long career in the defense industry. An opportunity as an attorney at General Dynamics in Fort Worth quickly because available, allowing the young couple to move to Walter’s home state. A brief stint back in Washington, DC with Dynalectron was interspersed with a final return to Fort Worth for a position as president of Norman Howell Associates, Inc., another defense contracting firm with significant operations in the Southeast Asia Theater during the Vietnam War. During his time at NHA, Walter oversaw operations across the globe with a staff of over 2,000 employees, with his primary office location in Saigon, South Vietnam. Upon the end of the war, Walter purchased a portion of the NHA business that was primarily involved in the defense industry. Initially name Compadre Graphics, the business expanded its footprint and renamed itself Polatere’s International Corporation. As its CEO, Walter grew the business into a unique area, baseball cap manufacturing. Pointer’s perfected a technique that printed textile dye onto normal printing paper using an offset printing press. This process allowed more complex logos and designs to be placed on caps, revolutionizing the type of designs seen on caps in the early 1970s. This ultimately led to Walter creating his own cap manufacturing company – Pro-Line Cap Company. Pro-Line quickly expanded in operations and manufacturing footprint across North Texas and by 1990 was the second largest camp manufacturer in the United States. Pro-Line held licenses for the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL as well as being the primary supplier of baseball teams in the NCAA. Over 85% of all the baseball teams in the NCAA played in Pro-Line caps. In 1991, Walter sold the business to private investors and remained on as a consultant for approximately two years thereafter.
Walter served on several boards of directors as well as being involved in local charities during his time as a businessman in Fort Worth, including the Fort Worth Boy and Girls Clubs of America and the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth.
Walter was an avid quail hunter and loved raising his hunting dogs. He was a conservationist and supported habitat improvement for the Texas Quail population on his land as well as others. Walter was very proud to be a distinguished alumnus of Highlands University. Walter was always intimately involved with his children in sports and their other activities. Anyone associated with Walter would tell you he was always a coach – his passion was getting the absolute best out of anyone around him. In his later years, Walter took a great interest in his grandchildren’s activities, whether it was baseball, softball, theater, cheer, golf or academics. He was most proud of his grandchildren. Walter and Susan thoroughly enjoyed their condo in South Padre Island, TX as well as traveling to take on new adventures.
Walter is survived by his loving wife of 59 years, Susan. He is also survived by his son, Kelly O’Neil and his wife, Holly, of Dallas as well as his daughter, Tamar Brats of Fort Worth. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Patrick O’Neil, Aidan O’Neil, CeCe Brants and Maggie Brants. He was preceded in death by his parents as well as his siblings, Austin O’Neil, Jr., Ernest Theodore O’Neil, II, and Pollyanna O’Neil Adams.