Remembering local World War II veteran Don O’Reilly

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Donald O’Reilly, better known as “Don,” was a proud World War II veteran, and a longtime Naperville resident. He will be remembered for his service to the country and his commitment to those around him, particularly his fellow veterans.

“Don was always very happy. Whenever he would come to any of the dinners, people would want him to sit with them at their table because he always had good stories to tell, [was] very interactive, and he was just a genuine good person,” said Jim Oftedal, Commander for the VFW and American Legion Honor Guard. 

Serving in World War II

Don was well known for being one of the few World War II veterans in the area. He served as a military policeman (MP) in the Army Air Corps, stationed in England from 1942 to 1945.

He often shared stories from that time, like when his commanding officer had him stand guard at the door of a particular meeting.

“He didn’t know what was going on during the meeting that was happening, but the next day, he found that it was all of the individuals that were reviewing the information for the attack on D-Day, the invasion of Normandy,” said Oftedal.

Commitment to various local groups

In 1958, a few years after his honorable discharge, he moved to Naperville. Here he committed his time to various groups including the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 and the American Legion Post 43.

In 2015, at the age of 94, he joined the honor guard, a group formed under both posts that performs three-volley salutes and taps at the graveside services for deceased veterans. 

“He attended something like 405 graveside services, so he was quite an honored individual,” said Oftedal.

O’Reilly was also a member of the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Naperville for 63 years, and the Naperville Radio Watch until he stepped down at the age of 100.

“We had a dinner here at the VFW one particular evening, and he asked the person in charge how late it was going to be. The person thought, well, that’s because Don needed to get home to go to bed or just not to travel at night, but the reason that he asked was because he had to go on duty at 10:00 at night,” said Oftedal.

Though O’Reilly always kept himself busy, he always saved time for those around him.

“Because Don lived so long, he had so many experiences that he would share with anybody that would ask him a question. He was very helpful, just a good member of both the VFW and American Legion,” said Oftedal.

O’Reilly was loved by many…so much so that for his 100th birthday, he was honored with a surprise drive-by parade, as well as a cake and honor guard plaque at the VFW.

Remembering Don O’Reilly

Don died on March 29, at the age of 102. He’ll be remembered for his timeless stories, wealth of knowledge, and American patriotism. 

“We miss him already, but we will never forget him,” said Oftedal.

Visitation for Don O’Reilly will take place on Thursday, April 11 at the Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home at 44 S. Mill St., from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

A Mass of Christian Burial will take place on Friday, April 12 at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 36 N. Ellsworth St., at 11:00 a.m. The honor guard will perform military funeral honors after the mass.