Susan Faulkner O’Neal is quick to credit her family, her faith and her small Bradford County community for the success she has had in her real estate career and her life. “Growing up, my family was faith-based on all sides,” she says. “My parents were together, my grandparents helped raise me, and I had an aunt who was like another grandmother. All of these people had a big impact on my life. Being raised in a small community helped me build security. There’s something different about knowing the people you do business with; you can do more for your community that way.”
At age 13, she began working in the office of Faulkner Realty, her family’s company. After graduating from Bradford High School at age 16, she attended Santa Fe College. “I was fortunate to come into a family-owned business,” O’Neal remembers. “Early on, I got involved with the Florida Association of Realtors and worked hard at my education and in that professional association.” O’Neal eventually became owner and manager of Faulkner Realty and has served as secretary, vice president and president of the Bradford-Union County Board of Realtors.
O’Neal’s community involvements include volunteering and fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the YMCA, the Guardian ad Litem Foundation Board, First United Methodist Church of Starke, Main Street of Starke, Capital City Bank Community Board and the North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Asked what she considers her major accomplishments, O’Neal is quick to mention family first and then names her work for Guardian ad Litem. “We have an unusual family,” she explains. “I have one biological daughter who is a teenager, five grown stepchildren and nine grandchildren who live in different parts of the country. I was proud to be involved with Guardian ad Litem in 1990 but had to stop when my daughter was born. Later, I was asked to serve on that organization’s board, where I became chairperson.”
“Being named a Woman of Distinction is icing on the cake with everything I’ve been blessed with,” O’Neal says. “I’ve watched the women from Bradford County who have received this award over the years and they are exceptional. We are so fortunate to have Santa Fe College showing leadership by being involved and doing positive things with our community. It’s a thrill to watch my daughter, who’s a ninth grader now and who is attending SF as a dual enrollment student.”
O’Neal is generous with her advice for young women who want to make a positive difference in society. “Education is the springboard to everything!” she says. “Keep busy and challenge yourself; you’ll feel better and you’ll meet better people. Keep your focus on your goals. I know it’s hard sometimes to deal with insecurities and drama, but lose the drama, get educated, and get involved in your community. Realize that ‘It’s not all about me’—it’s about how you can help others.”
About Women of Distinction
Women of Distinction recognizes outstanding female service in Alachua and Bradford Counties, and was created by the Women’s History Committee at Santa Fe College in 1987. Women of Distinction has honored more than 150 outstanding women in the community since its inception and acknowledges new women each spring at a formal ceremony.
The 2016 Women of Distinction ceremony will be held Thursday, March 31, at the Best Western Gateway Grand. This year’s Women of Distinction are Bonnie Cameron, Susan Faulkner-O’Neal, Grae Horvath and posthumously Gloria Fletcher. Also being honored at the ceremony is the Woman of Promise V.ictoria Denmark.
Tickets for the Women of Distinction event are $35 per person and are available online. Reservations should be made early, as seating is limited. For more information, please contact event coordinator Teri McClellan at 352-395-5201.