Merrill Presley O'Neal

December 22, 1928March 22, 2021

Merrill Presley O’Neal passed away peacefully on Monday, March 22 at the age of 92 with his wife, Gladys at his side. He was born on December 22, 1928 in the small town of Weston Texas, to William Grady O’Neal and Miza Zora “Jane” Ethridge, both of Texas. After growing up in McKinney and later Fort Worth, he joined the Navy where he spent 4 years in the Pacific and discovered his love of travel and oriental art. After discharge, he received a degree in International Trade from the University of Texas which led him to join a small freight forwarding company where he spent the rest of his career helping grow it to an international presence with 42 offices worldwide.

After graduating, he moved to Houston where he met the love of his life, Gladys Ann Rigsby who he married on April 25, 1959, in Port Arthur, Texas, her hometown. He frequently said she was the best thing that ever happened to him.

He is survived by his wife Gladys and son Michael and wife Debbie, granddaughters Crystal and Heather, great-granddaughters, Bianca and Giselle, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Another son, Robert, passed away in 2008.

He was a wonderful father and family man and always looked forward to seeing his family. He loved playing with all of the kids.

One of the joys of his life was attending church. He was a long-time devoted member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church where he was an usher and greeter for many years. Sunday mornings regularly saw him greeting church members at every service with his trademark smile.

As a boy, he developed an interest in plants which lasted throughout his life. He founded and owned a nursery on the west side of Houston for several years and particularly loved many tropical plants especially bromeliads and plumeria. He was a past president and lifetime member of both the Bromeliad and Plumeria Societies of Houston and was a requested speaker at garden clubs across the area. For many years, people came from all over to attend his plant sales where he loved to give a tour of his garden and greenhouse and he and his garden were once featured in Houston Home & Garden Magazine. He was also a long time volunteer and participant at the Houston Bulb & Plant Mart always encouraging everyone he knew to attend.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations in his memory may be made to St. Luke’s United Methodist Church attn: Hospitality, 3417 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77027.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Merrill Presley O'Neal

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Ruth Brunson

March 28, 2021

Uncle Merrill. It would be hard to be complete in all my memories of what a wonderful man he was. One of my fondest is of course like others, participating in his love of plants! A visit to his greenhouse and talks always resulted in “here, take this plant...and this one too!” He loved to share his joy so much, that he loaded up a box of his beloved bromeliads and flew out to Hobbs, New Mexico to do a presentation for my garden club...and of course, graciously gifted everyone with a bromeliad! My interest and love of Tillandsias stems from him.

Another memory that warms my heart, while at Texas A&M and president of the Management Society, I was tasked with finding speakers for our club. So I called Uncle Merrill! The receptionist at the office was not as amused as I was when I asked for Uncle Merrill instead of Merrill O’Neal! Of course he came and spoke to us about international business and I was so proud to have him there.

That summarizes Uncle Merrill, smart, knowledgeable, educated, wise of course. But also loving, kind, willing to share, joyful. So very proud of his family. As a niece I was so happy to be included in his circle of love. His family is blessed with even more fabulous memories. He will be missed but remembered with great joy.

Our love to you all, Ruth, Cliff, Laura, JB, Price, Chasity and the grandkids.

Carrie O'Neal Carden

March 25, 2021

I'm so sorry for your loss. Every family has been through so much this last year and for many not even able to see their loved ones. Mother, Maxine O'Neal, texted me this morning and I wanted to reach out to you and let you know know the G.H. O'Neal family are grieving as well. I wished had known Uncle Merrill better but it was difficult on both families to spend time together.

Please le me know if there will be a service. My thoughts are with you and I am here to support you in anyway I can.

Carrie O'Neal Crden