Carla Vivian (Nielsen) O’Neill

Date of Birth

September 16, 1946

Date of Death

December 18, 2021

Carla Vivian (Nielsen) O’Neill passed away peacefully at home on December 18th, after a long battle with cancer. She was 75 years old. She was born to Ross K. and Ann (Lozoski) Nielsen in Montebello, California and moved with her parents and brother Paul to Santa Barbara. She grew up in the house her father built on More Ranch Road, “Cinco Robles.” She attended St. Raphael’s School and graduated at the top of her class at Bishop Garcia Diego High School (‘64). She went on to attend The University of California at Berkeley (B.A., ‘68, but by her own admission, she was way too square back then to be a hippie) and The University of California at Santa Barbara (M.A. History, ‘69).

While working as a teaching assistant at Santa Barbara City College, she met Desmond O’Neill. After a brief courtship, they married on June 20, 1970 at the Old Mission. In 1971, they moved to their first and only home on Portesuello Avenue.

In 1974, Carla and Des welcomed twin girls, Siobhan (Augusta) and Eileen. When her daughters were toddlers, Carla went back to school at UCSB and became a Certified Public Accountant in 1979. In 1980, she began working as a CPA for Richard Hilliard. Later, they became business partners and worked together for most of their careers. True to the adage, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” she loved what she did, and thus reluctantly retired in 2020. Countless long-term clients would tell you that maybe they started out that way, but that they considered her a fierce protector, loyal advocate, and treasured friend.

Carla was active in the community. She volunteered as an advisor to the UCSB chapter of her college sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, and served on the boards of alma mater Bishop High School and the Santa Barbara Symphony. She was a member of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara North.

Carla will be remembered by all who knew her for her many talents: She was an amazing singer and loved classic Broadway show tunes. She was an excellent cook and baker and threw an amazing dinner party. She appreciated all manner of painting, sculpture, and folk art. Everyone who knew her will probably remember her for her impeccable fashion sense, taking designer clothes and jewelry from good to great. She occasionally joked, “when you don’t know what to wear, wear your jewelry.” Carla loved animals, especially all of the family cats, parrots, and her dogs, Zeus and Harley. She especially loved watching birds in her backyard. Carla was very fond of her relatives in Denmark, and visited them several times, most recently in 2018. She liked to travel, from weekend trips to Carmel to weeks-long adventures abroad with Des.

Carla was an involved mother. In 1984 she sewed, by hand, a set of costumes for the cast of daughter Siobhan’s children’s theater production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Also in the mid-80s, she joined daughter Eileen and husband Des on stage in Goleta Civic Ballet/Santa Barbara Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Arlington Theater. She gamely attended countless dramatic and dance performances that her husband and daughters were in. She was the best advisor and personal shopper her husband and daughters ever had.

Carla was a devoted grandmother, “Mimi,” to her grandson, Alan Guerard, with whom she rediscovered the joys of bowling, ice-cream sundaes at Fenton’s, and all kinds of “boy stuff,” bestowing her beloved bright-red Mustang upon him (and the insurance rates upon his resigned parents).

“Grace, charm, good humor, high intelligence, and sound common sense.”

Carla is survived by her husband of 51 years, Des O’Neill of Santa Barbara, daughter Siobhan O’Neill Schwenk (Carl), daughter Eileen O’Neill Guerard (Ben), and grandson Alan; sister-in-law Linda O’Neill; sister-in-law Carolyn Nielsen, niece Kristine Weber (Pat), and nephew Paul Nielsen (Kim). Service will be held once COVID-19 restrictions ease.


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