Tom Burton and Peggy O'Neill

tom burton and peggy o'neill

Tom Burton and Peggy O’Neill, the world’s most devoted couple, were killed in a car accident on July 19, 2019. They were an adored and actively involved aunt and uncle to their dozens of nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews, never missing a family event. Tom and Peggy valued their family above all else. Married for 19 years and together 15 years before that, the love they felt for one another was inspiring, and they were rarely apart. Their favorite moments were sitting around a table with their loved ones, and they both selflessly prioritized their parents and siblings, in times of need and in celebration. They were also very supportive of causes such as the American Cancer Society.

Margaret (Peggy) Mary O’Neill was born October 8, 1956, in Graceville, Minnesota, to Philip and Vivian (Sauer) O’Neill. At Beardsley High School, Peggy was a cheerleader, homecoming queen, selected for Girls State, and graduated with honors in 1974. She then attended Willmar Community College and later moved to Browns Valley, MN. While there she operated a ceramic shop and worked for the Browns Valley Cable Company. In 1982 she moved to Dilworth, MN, and worked at a bank, then in the library at NDSU from 1984 to 1989. She dedicated the rest of her career to Moorhead State University until her retirement in 2017. Peggy loved tending to her flowers and plants as well as spending time working in her vegetable garden, attending Straw Hat Plays, and volunteering for the Fargo Film Festival. Peggy, an excellent cook famous for her baked beans and chocolate cake, always wore a smile on her face, and had a heart of gold.

Thomas (Tom) Andrew Burton was born on August 9, 1956, in New Rockford, North Dakota, to Myron and Ovedia Burton. He graduated from Fargo North in 1974, then attended Detroit Lakes MN State Community College, earning an Associates Degree. Tom worked for Steiger Tractor and then Burlington Northern Railroad for 40 years, retiring in 2016. Outside of work, Peggy was a much-needed brake on Tom’s exuberance, for blacksmithing, leatherworking, fly fishing, woodworking, scuba diving, and—the list goes on.

Peggy and Tom were married on St. Patrick’s Day 2000. Together they enjoyed being at the lake, gardening, cooking, travel, listening to MPR, theater, motorcycling, crafting their own beer and being members of the Home Brewers Club, attending WE Fest, and belonging to the Plainsmen Buckskinners Club in Fargo. Peggy was the head chef, assisted by sous chef and chief taster Tom; but he did supply the mushrooms and the compost in which they were grown.

Peggy and Tom will be dearly missed by their loving families and many, many friends. Tom is survived by his mother Ovedia Burton of Fargo, ND; siblings Michael, Margaret, Claudia (Curt) Koppelman, all of Fargo, ND; Debbie Conarty of Portland, OR; and Jeffrey Burton (Varda Nauen) of Saint Paul, MN; 4 nieces and nephews, one great-nephew plus one on the way, and extended family. Tom was preceded in death by his father, Myron Burton, in 1994.

Peggy is survived by her father Philip, who turns 100 next month, siblings Kevin (Nancy) O’Neill of Lincoln, CA; Maureen O’Neill (Jay Oine) of Roseville, MN; Linda (Pat) Nebben of Becker, MN; Mike (Mary) O’Neill of Beardsley, MN; Philip “Bud” (Cathy) O’Neill of Bennett, CO; Laurie (Dale) Haukos of Beardsley, MN; and Kerry O’Neill (Kyle Fossen) of Sartell, MN; 23 nieces and nephews, and 42 great-nieces and great-nephews, plus countless extended family. Peggy was preceded in death by her loving mother in January, 2019.
In lieu of flowers, please consider contributing to Lend A Hand Up, Fargo, ND, or the American Cancer Society.

Prayer Service: 4:00 P.M. Sunday, July 28, 2019 at Boulger Funeral Home & Celebration of Life Center, Fargo with visitation starting at 3:00 P.M.

Funeral Services: 10:00 A.M. Monday, July 29, 2019 at Boulger Funeral Home & Celebration of Life Center, Fargo with visitation starting at 9:00 A.M.

Burial: Scambler Cemetery, Pelican Rapids, MN.

Please click for order of service and message information on the Prayer Service and Funeral: Prayer Service Funeral Service

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Memories Timeline


  1. Two of the kindest individuals Lynn and I have every known. Peggy and Tom always stopped to chat and expressed genuine interest in those people who were lucky enough to cross their paths. If there is any blessing in this tragedy, it’s neither of them were left behind. We have lost two wonderful human beings and we will miss their bright smiles and kind ways.

  2. Wow, just wow…..I don’t even know where or how to begin. Tom was probably my best friend. I welcomed his (mostly) unannounced visits with his usual Old Style beer and we’d sit around and talk about our lives and various projects. Peg helped my daughter in college and they gave us their ferns when they were remodeling their house in order to sell it. Tom would talk about his family and the O’Neill sisters. Over the years, he’s been a huge influence and friend. Our trip to Bonneville, with other plans to (someday) to see the Reno Air Races. They had just sold their house a couple of weeks ago and were still in the process of getting their lake Tamerak place all arranged and settled in. His leatherworking area, blacksmith shop, motorcycle projects, etc. Some of his last words to me were “Don’t expect me to disappear and not visit just because I’ve moved out of Moorhead. Dang man……Rest in peace both of you.

  3. Tom and Peggy were the nicest people to have ever known. This was such a terrible tragity that happen. I’ve known Tom for over 40 years and everytime seeing him were good times and alot of laughs. RIP Tom and Peggy you’ll be missed dearly

  4. The world lost two of the most gracious and caring people the other day. Peg and Tom meant so much to so many. They were legends, and they will always have a place in our hearts as heavy as they may be right now. Remember to hold those close to you today, tomorrow, and forever.

  5. We offer our most heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of Tom Burton and Peggy O’Neill. Tom was a kind and gentle spirit with a great sense of humor and a straightforward way about him, one always was glad to visit with him. Peggy of the laughing eyes and red hair, our precious cousin, was a perfect match for Tom and they were lovely as a couple; side by side in this world and the next! We mourn their passing, comforted that they are in the arms of their Lord together.

  6. Two such wonderful, gentle, sweet, fun people. Such a loss. Many fabulous childhood memories at the farm and adult memories with good beer and laughter. Always laughter. The universe has gained two powerful forces for good but we so miss our loved ones.

  7. It has been such a terrible shock! A gut punch!! I also have wonderful memories of the farm and the wonderful O’Neill cousins. I have always said they are the nicest family I have ever known. They were raised well by Phil and Viv, parents who taught them to be loving and giving, and they sure are. I regret I didn’t know Tom real well but It was obvious that they were very happy together. I just saw Peg about a month ago at an MSUM Straw Hat Players production. We hugged and she had those wonderful smiling eyes. She did so much for our late Aunt Connie and I will always be so grateful. I wish she and Tom could have had time to enjoy their lake home in retirement, but I know they are walking in an amazing garden with loved ones and our lord.

  8. I remember meeting the O’Neills (not all of them, tho) when they came over to Tim and Brian Agar’s and they came up to our place. I remember thinking that you all had the most beautiful eyes and great humor. I am so sorry for your lost.

  9. We just got home and saw the Forum story…such small words for a couple that were so much. So much merry making, so much caring and support, so many interesting/open-minded/nonjudgemental conversations, so much patience, so much wisdom…so full of life. Peg and Tom helped us raise our kids, they never missed a family event, they made everyone they met feel special – even listening intently to our 2 year old’s stories over and over again, and then again to our grandchildren, making them feel important and precious, they had that effect on everyone they met.
    …this new adventure they are on together, wherever it may take them, I hope they take the long way, get to know the locals, enjoy the scenery and each other’s company… just like their adventures in this life.
    We love and miss you great buddies…

  10. I worked with Peggy at MSUM and will always remember her kindness and laughter. My sympathies.

  11. In honor of two lives that were beautifully lived, I’m incredibly saddened with the news of Peg & Tom’s passing. There are no words to express the grief & distress that’s felt in every heavy heart that’s ever met them. The memory of their love for each other is such an inspiration to everyone they touched with their beautiful character. As a ‘city cousin’ of Peg’s who also had the privilege of getting to spend time out at the O’neill Farm, there’ll always be wonderful reminiscing of all the fun adventures we had during one of the highlights of this kids’ life! Peg & Tom, we know you’re safe & sound in our Heavenly Father’s arms but your wonderful presence in each of our lives will SO be missed. O’neill’s, my heart breaks for you. I’m sending my hugs & prayers to surround you during this time of grief. Life is so precious.

  12. My sincere sympathy to both families.
    We had alot of good times visiting with them over the years.

  13. Very sorry to hear about Peggy and Tom. We only met them once at Holly and Adams wedding..Very friendly .

  14. I was saddened to read about Tom. Knew him and his family, especially his sister, my classmate, Margaret. Such a tragedy for your family. May you have comfort and healing talking about fond memories. Hugs and prayers to your family.

  15. I am deeply saddened by the loss of Peg and Tom. They were both so wonderful and will be lovingly remembered.
    May our lord comfort the families during this difficult time.
    My heartfelt condolences.

  16. Oh, Peg, my dear, sweet cousin. This is so hard to accept. You and Tom lived your lives filled with love, family, laughter, and adventure! But your new retired life was just beginning.

    Even though we didn’t spend as much time together as I’d have liked to, whenever we did meet, it was like we’d never been apart. I will miss you both so much!! The caring and warmth you gave so freely to everyone is your legacy and we will pay it forward in your honor!

    My heart and prayers are with my O’Neill cousins, Uncle Phil, and with Tom’s family.

  17. I met Tom when I first moved to Fargo in 1980. He lived down the street from me, was a great friend and I occasionally watched over his dog, Zac, when he was out of town with railroad work. I recall when he met “this cute Irish girl with a great laugh and a spark in her eyes”, and over the years we all shared a casual friendship that always felt like it picked right up where it left off, even after years of loosing touch. Meeting them in Pelcian Rapids for fish fry night and visiting at their “cabin” were some of our last visits. Their lake place was amazing, and showed such ability and creativity. I sure would have enjoyed visiting them there again as we were all approaching the ‘gift of time’ that retirement can provide. I feel so very sad about their deaths- such a loss, how cruel the luck of the draw can be and how precious life is. We both send condolences and prayers to their families and all their many friends. Such wonderful people.

  18. Very sad to learn of this tragedy. Peg was a co-worker and friend at MSUM and I shall miss her. Best wishes to her family and those of her husband.

  19. Dear Tom & Peggy Family and Friends,

    They sound like the sweetest couple ever. We are so very sorry. Our deepest condolences. Love to you all.

    Phil and Linda Stringer

  20. As so many people have written, this is just very difficult to comprehend. I rarely saw Peggy and Tom in the last few years but they were simply wonderful people. As I’ve been thinking about them, one of my lasting impressions is that they always asked about what I was doing and what and how my family was doing. They didn’t talk about themselves, only when you pushed them to do so. I think that says so much about them and their love of family. As kids we had so much fun with Peggy and her amazing family, which are memories that I always cherish. Absolutely beautiful people in every way.

  21. I met them for the first time at Mick’s (a local dive bar) when I was just starting my film photography journey in fall of 2015. As I do,we struck up a conversation and afterwards, I asked to take a picture of them and thankfully they agreed.

    I remember seeing them many times in that dark bar over the years. We always caught up and I shared whatever latest camera I happened to have with that day. I even managed to see them right before I left for the Twin Cities this past November, they wished me luck and hoped to see me again.

    I was surprised to hear of their passing and while I’m sure I did not know them the longest they definitely left a mark on me and I’ll miss seeing them around. Rest in piece you two and know we’re all thinking of you.

  22. Tom and Peg were great people! There are no words for the loss of two great friends. David and I well miss the two of them dearly. Rest in peace!

  23. The wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, friendly, gentle, sensible, kind, helpful, genuine, and sincere. James 3:17 CEV.
    My dearest Peggy, my heart is breaking as I rememberyou and our friendship. Many firsts for us; off to college, EnglishLiterature, our first house with the crooked floors, and many others to come. Peg you stood beside me always, even on my wedding day. So many memories. I have met Tom on occasion, you were two peas in one pod. I miss you deeply, Godspeed you two, until we meet on the other side. CONDOLENCES to all Family and Friends.

  24. What a lovely video. Our sympathies to the families. I worked with Peg over 25 years at the MSUM Library. She was so competent and dedicated and efficient in her work. A joy to see her and her colleagues at the Library every work day. Steve knew Tom from the railroad and cherished his greeting “Hi, Sib. How’s it going?” We miss this sweet couple.

  25. We are saddened to hear about the tragic loss of Peggy and her husband, Tom. Peggy’s kind and knowledgeable assistance in MSUM’s library made such a difference for us in doing our work and her smile always made our day better. We send condolences to both Peggy’s and Tom’s families and friends. May they rest together in peace.

  26. When I started teaching at MSUM, I would go to the library on an almost daily basis and Peg was always so warm when I visited it. I remember one time when the library was closed for a week, Peg commiserated with me and wondered how I had made it through the week. She was always so warm with gentle humor. Always a joy to see whenever I visited. It sounds like Tom was the same way. Too gentle souls taken too early.

    John Benson

  27. Our sincere sympathy to Tom & Peg’s family & friends. We met these two through mutual friends, Dave & Heidi Fingarson. They were both friendly and kind with an undeniable love for each other and a zest for life, that was visible when we first met them. So down to earth and interesting. Such a violent tragedy and a terrible loss. We are so so sorry. May these two beautiful souls rest peacefully & eternally together. Sandy & Andy Lia Det. Lakes

  28. My heartfelt sympathy is extended to all family members- May God be with u in this most difficult time!

  29. Can you please correct an error in the entry I made in the guest book? The corrected text follows:
    I’ve hesitated to write something here, because I know I was not a close friend of Peg and Burt, and others must feel their loss much more keenly than I do.
    Having said that I do want to acknowledge that grief, and pass on what I knew of them.
    I first met Peggy and Burt at Lauermans’, in the mid 90’s as they were great friends of my sister-in-law Ann Westra and her husband Tom. Burt was always great to run into. Friendly and quick with a joke, and eager to hear one from you. Peggy was, well, Peggy was the second most kind, sweet, caring person I’ve ever met. The other one I married.
    I’m finding it very difficult to come to grips with a universe that could be so cruel as to snatch away from us such a great and loving couple. Especially as they had both recently retired, and were embarking on their long anticipated life as full time lake dwellers.
    I’m also finding it near impossible to find it within me to forgive the person whose carelessness took them away from us. I know if Peggy was here, she would likely forgive him. But that just goes to show you how she was a better person than I am. Ruth and I will miss them both very much.

  30. Tom and Peggy were welcoming and gracious! I still can’t comprehend that such a sweet couple with their young lives taken just when they were just starting a new chapter! Tom and Peggy will be dearly missed!!

  31. I’m shocked and saddened by the loss of two kind hearted and gentle people. Tom and Peg were so sweet and attended so many of my family’s events. They always made a point of being there for friends. I’ll miss seeing them.

  32. It is hard to express our shock and grief over this tragic loss. We have known Tom and Peggy for many years, both from around Dilworth and from working with Tom for 25+ years on the railroad. They will be missed. Our deepest sympathies go out to both of their families. A memorial gift has been given to the Lend A Hand foundation to continue their spirit of service to others.

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