Matthew leaning on bike: by   Stacy   Kline (taken at the start of the California Central Coast Randonneé 1200K)

Matthew leaning on bike: by Stacy Kline (taken at the start of the California Central Coast Randonneé 1200K)

Who is Matthew O'Neill? He's an amazing young man who was tragically killed at the age of 33 by a very young driver in Santa Maria, California on August 9, 2014. Matthew was a beloved son, a cherished older brother, a loving fiancé, an incredible nephew and cousin - and most of all, a kind, sweet, caring, giving and generous friend to everyone he knew. He had a law degree, was due to graduate with his PhD in the Spring of 2015 and he raised guide dogs. Matthew was a passionate randonneur (which is a long distance bicycle rider) who followed all road rules very fastidiously and was very safe. Please honor Matthew's legacy by simply Changing a Lane to Save a Life



Matthew was born on the 16th of November, 1980.  He was the first born child of Michael and Cheri O'Neill.  He grew up in Chula Vista with his two younger brothers, Craig and Kevin.

Matthew suffered a severe bite from the learning bug early on that kept him in school for the 30 years. He began his academic journey at Halecrest Elementary School in kindergarten and through his 6th grade.  While at Halecrest, Matthew became involved with Cub Scouts, Crossing Guard, and playing the trombone.  Matthew then went on to Bonita Vista Middle School where he enjoyed band, school newspaper, and continued his academic pursuits.  Matthew continued with Boy Scouts, rising the ranks and eventually becoming the Scout Leader for Troop 151 and later achieving the highest rank, Eagle Scout.

During his time at Bonita Vista High School, Matthew joined the Speech & Debate team, edited for the school newspaper, and was the student body commissioner for technology.  His extra curricular activities in High School envigorated his thirst for knowledge and adventure and even afforded him the opportunities to travel to Washington, D.C., and Seattle, Wash. among many others.

He received his Bachelor of Arts from UC Santa Cruz in 2003 as a History major and Education minor focusing on early childhood social/psychological development. After graduation, Matthew worked with families of children with disabilities on Special Education issues through the Children’s Rights Clinic at Whittier and other Southern California law firms. His interest in civil and disability rights issues centering on special education law and policy led him to pursuing his Juris Doctorate from Whittier College in 2009. Matthew was a Children’s Rights Fellow and the Executive Editor of the Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy.

Following his law degree, Matthew furthered his legal training by becoming Ph.D. student in Special Education, Disabilities, and Risk Studies at UC Santa Barbara.  He was beginning his final year in the program in the fall of 2014. While in the Ph.D. program he worked as a Clients’ Rights Advocate for Disability Rights California’s Office of Clients’ Rights Advocacy and served clients of California’s unique Regional Center system that provides services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities to live in community settings with family and friends. His passion was seeking ways for children and young adults to have inclusive and communicative experiences in public schools.

When he was not found in an academic or legal environment, Matthew could be found partaking in his other great passion, long distance cycling.  A member of the PCH Randonneurs he was considered the heart and soul of the organization. Matthew Completed and supported numerous rides of distances up to 1200km throughout North America, Europe, and Japan.  He was looking forward to participating in the 1200km brevet in Perth, Australia in October 2014.   Matthew often said that he needed cycling like he needed air, it was a way to express himself and was his absolute passion.

While attending UC Santa Barbarbra, Matthew met the girl of his dreams  Jennie Passwater.  They had planned on getting married after graduation. They lived in Carpinteria, California with his career-changed guide dog, Autumn, Jennie’s cat Luna and his garage full of bicycles.  On August 9th, 2014, Matthew was tragically struck and killed on a rural Santa Maria road while riding his recumbent bicycle on a 1200km brevet through the California Central Coast.  Matthew lived 12,319 beautiful days and saw 12,318 sunsets. His life was full because of all the places he went and all the people he met.  To reference his favorite book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “So long, and thanks for all the fish!”