James Thomas O’Meara, known as Jim, died December 18, 2019 at age 76. He was born September 25, 1943 in Chicago to Irish immigrants. After graduating from DePaul University, he joined the Peace Corps and went to the Philippines, where from 1965 to 1967 he used construction skills that had helped pay his college tuition to supervise the building of a rural schoolhouse, library, and clinic.
He then joined USAID and went to Vietnam, 1967 to 1969. While he never spoke of his war experience, his daughters learned after his death that he helped defectors from the North survive in the South and received the State Department’s Award for Heroism in 1968 “for courageous action while under fire in Vietnam.” In 1983, USAID gave Jim its Distinguished Honor Award “for sustained distinguished service in personally resolving controversial legislative issues regarding the Caribbean Basin Initiative and United States assistance to El Salvador.” As Acting Director of the Food for Peace Office from 1990 to 1992, he helped get shipments of food to Ethiopia and Djibouti more quickly to those who needed it. Jim moved to the US Agriculture Department in 1992 and retired in 1999 as Director of the Emerging Markets Office of the Foreign Agricultural Service.
Outside work, Jim focused on his family, friends, and community. He renovated one house, built another, and always helped neighbors in need. He led the Brookmont Civic League’s negotiations with the US Army Corps of Engineers to stop a sludge treatment plant from harming the neighborhood. After September 11, 2001, Jim chose to tear out invasive kudzu vines that had been destroying native trees in and around his neighborhood, commenting in an October 2002 Washington Post article the following: “Slashing and uprooting seemed more appropriate responses than those being recommended at the time — shopping, for example.”
Jim leaves behind his wife of 51 years, Clare Lefebure O’Meara, daughter Megan Elizabeth O’Meara, daughter Molly and son-in-law Joe Sheehan, and grandsons Charles and William Sheehan. In lieu of flowers, you may donate online here .
Due to the pandemic, Jim’s memorial service is now set for Saturday, April 23, 2022 at 11 am at Our Lady of Victory Church in Washington, DC. Friends will be able to find details about how to participate remotely on this virtual memorial site.