Trade group honors former New England show president

The Massachusetts Marine Trades Association honored longtime New England Boat Show president Joe O’Neal.
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Longtime New England Boat Show president Joe O’Neal (right) received the first Frank Farrell Distinguished Service Award, created in honor of another pivotal New England Boat Show organizer. Massachusetts Marine Trades Association director Larry Russo is at left.

Longtime New England Boat Show president Joe O’Neal (right) received the first Frank Farrell Distinguished Service Award, created in honor of another pivotal New England Boat Show organizer. Massachusetts Marine Trades Association director Larry Russo is at left.

The Massachusetts Marine Trades Association gave longtime New England Boat Show president Joe O’Neal, who retired last year, the Frank Farrell Distinguished Service Award.

“Joe O’Neal retired from running the New England Boat Show after 35 years, and we thought it was time to recognize his retirement,” MMTA director Larry Russo told Trade Only Today.

“And for years we’ve been wanting to do an award that recognized Frank Farrell, who passed away in 2001. He was the creator of boat shows here in Boston and New England, and he was a cool guy. He helped co-found the MMTA, he steered us into purchasing the Boston boat show and the in-water boat show. He was a huge figure in the industry.”

Farrell was a co-creator of the first New England Boat Show in 1957 and was instrumental in the formation of the MMTA in 1964. He became the first full-time executive director of the MMTA in 1975 and served in that position for 25 years.

O’Neal and Farrell had similar dispositions, working coolly in high-pressure situations, Russo said. “You never heard him raise his voice,” Russo said of O’Neal. “I know how I felt getting my booths squared away; he had 400. You never heard him lose his cool.”

“In his honor, The Frank Farrell Distinguished Service Award will be presented by the MMTA, from time to time, to an outstanding person in the marine industry,” Russo said in his speech. “It may recognize long and devoted service, untiring commitment to a specific cause or a singular act that significantly advances recreational boating in the marine industry. The first recipient of this award is a most worthy choice.”

“We did this for two reasons, to honor two people at the same time,” Russo told Trade Only. “We didn’t take it lightly, giving it to Joe; Frank and Joe were cut from the same cloth. Both were boat show guys in their own right.”

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