O'NEILL -- A bronze statue memorial for John O'Neill was erected in northern Nebraska Monday morning, next to the Holt County Courthouse.

"This whole project is the brainchild of this lady here," Lily Havranek, president and CEO of O'Neill Chamber of Commerce said as she pointed to the former mayor Lois Schaffer beside her. 

"I am so hung up on history," laughed Lois Schaffer. She said she's wanted to raise a monument for the town of O'Neill's founder since she was mayor in the 80's.

"It's the perfect example of this can happen if you want it to," Havranek said.

John O'Neill was an Irishman known for a few accomplishments: "He was a forgotten hero, and a lot of people aren't aware of his distinguished career in the civil war," said Natalie Butterfield, president of Fenian Women's Auxillary. "He led an invasion of Canada and [...] fought the only armed victory for the cause of Irish independence in the 19th century," said Butterfield. He inspired independence and encouraged Irish settlement in the midwest. In fact, the first president of Ireland even visited his grave to pay tribute to his inspiration.

The $60,000 statue did face some challenges, as COVID drilled some trouble into the schedule.

"We had planned to start fundraising in March of 2020 for St. Patrick's day but that turned out it could not be a worse time," Butterfield said, "And we faced supply and labor shortages."

To finally have it all come together, "We're very excited," Havranek and Schaffer said together.