After surviving mumps, measles and smallpox as an infant and two bouts of cancer, stunt woman Kitty O’Neil died November 2, 2018 as the result of pneumonia in Eureka, South Dakota at the age of 72.
Left deaf after surviving the illnesses when she was only five months old, O’Neil’s mother refused to teach her daughter sign language but instead taught Kitty how to read lips and speak the words by feeling the vibrations on her mother’s throat. Her mother later became a speech therapist and opened a school for the deaf – The Listening Eyes School for the Deaf.
A stunt double for some of the biggest stars in Hollywood including Linda Carter and Lindsey Wagner, O’Neil made her debut in “Airport 1975” and went on to appear in “Two-Minute Warning”, “Airport ’77”, “September 30, 1955”, “Foes”, 58 episodes of “The Bionic Woman”, “Damien: Omen II”, “Foul Play”, “Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story”, 52 episodes of “Wonder Woman”, “The Blues Brothers”, and “Smokey and the Bandit II”.
She was born Kitty Linn O’Neil on March 24, 1946 in Nueces, Texas the only daughter of a Cherokee mother and an oil wildcat father. She also learned to play the piano and cello. An accomplished diver, Kitty missed the 1964 Summer Olympics after a broken wrist and a bout of spinal meningitis.
After recovering, she looked for a way to reinvent herself…something fast…and turned her hand to racing and daredevil stunts. Becoming the first woman to join Stunts Unlimited, her stunts set records including the land-speed record of over 600mph in a rocket car, leaping 127 feet off of a hotel roof to land in an inflated air bag, and leaping from a helicopter at a height of 180 feet.
O’Neil had no children; there are no known survivors.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>I found the December ‘18 memorial issue of The New York Times Magazine yesterday and just now read this really awesome article by Michael Paterniti about legendary Wonder Woman stuntwoman/daredevil/multiple record-breaker Kitty O’Neil: <a href=”https://t.co/eBPXW1V5qm”>https://t.co/eBPXW1V5qm</a><br>What a legend. RIP.</p>— 🧟♂️Charles Dexter Ward 🧟♂️ (@CAStLESVANIA) <a href=”https://twitter.com/CAStLESVANIA/status/1082816862100942849?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 9, 2019</a></blockquote>