Neal William O’Connor

Advertising agency president

Neal William O’Connor, who joined the nation’s oldest advertising agency at age 23 in 1949 and became one of its youngest presidents in 1964, died Jan. 18 in Princeton, N.J., of complications from Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 76.

N.W. Ayer ad agency created or placed millions of dollars worth of ads on TV and elsewhere, much of which supported showbizzers.

O’Connor was instrumental in creating such slogans as AT&T’s “Long distance — the next best thing to being there,” John Deere’s “Nothing runs like a Deere,” and United Airline’s “The extra-care airlines.”

When O’Connor was named president of N.W. Ayer, the company was reeling from the loss of several major accounts. He worked to build the company back up to its former success and was appointed CEO in 1966.

After he retired in 1980, O’Connor turned to another passion: researching World War I history. A first lieutenant in the 350th Infantry Regiment during World War II, he wrote seven books about World War I aviation. In 1982 he established the nonprofit Foundation for Aviation World War I.

He is survived by his wife, three sons and three grandchildren.

Donations in his name can be made to the Neal W. O’Connor Memorial Fund c/o Project ALS, 511 Avenue of the Americas, PMB 341, New York, NY 10011.

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