Dr. Kevin J. O’Keefe
Aged 75, Dr. Kevin J. O’Keefe succumbed to the effects of Parkinson’s disease on March 29. Born and raised in Queens, NYC, Kevin was the son of Eileen McNamara and John O’Keefe, from Co. Clare and Co. Cork, Ireland, respectively.
Kevin lived an especially rich, varied and exceptional life. He attended Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn, received a BA from Queens College (CUNY) and earned his Ph.D. in History from New York University, as well as attained commission as a U.S Naval officer (LT). He served in the Caribbean during the Cuban Missile Crisis and later in the Mediterranean on the U.S.S. Franklin Delano Roosevelt aircraft carrier. Kevin began a long and distinguished career as a Professor of History, spending most of his years at Stetson University, in Deland, Florida. A student and faculty favorite, he was a McEniry award winner (the university’s highest award for teaching), chaired the history department and the Faculty Senate. At the time of his retirement in 2008, he was honored with the status of Professor Emeritus. He is the author of A Thousand Deadlines; The New York City Press and American Neutrality 1914-1917, as well as the editor of a series of publications on American history.
A lover of life wherever he happened to be, Kevin travelled extensively. When he was a young 22 year old U.S. Naval officer on leave, he made his first visit to the seaside town of Kilkee, Ireland, where his mother was born and grew up. He introduced himself to his relatives and became a well-known and heartily greeted friend around the town, returning every year since.
After retirement from academic life, he eventually settled near his sister in the beautiful Cape Cod town of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where, as everywhere that he has spent some time, he was warmly regarded.
Kevin was pre-deceased by his parents, and his brother, John, and his sister, Mary. The second of six children, he is survived by his brothers Gerald O’Keefe and Peter O’Keefe, and his sister E. Patricia O’Keefe Curran, along with several nieces and nephews: Eileen, Jerry, Jennifer, Meg, Kristen, Katherine, David, Kevin and Mariah; and grandnieces and grandnephews: Maureen, Katie, Dean, Patrick, Lexie, Ryan, Sarah, and Stone. His family and many friends will all miss his wonderful wit, as well as his generous spirit. He’ll be remembered with a smile.
Kevin requested that his body be donated for Parkinson’s Research and so it has, to Massachusetts General Hospital. He lost his chance for a cure, but wanted to contribute to the endeavor.
Let the family know you care by sharing this tribute.
How much we loved Kevin–his sparkling blue eyes were so often crinkled with smiles or laughs! How lucky he was to have as dedicated and loving a sister as Pat is. I, and his many friends in Provincetown, will miss him.
I grew to love and respect, Kevin when he came for a rehab stay at Rivercrest which is a part of Newbury Court in Concord. I was his chaplain and enjoyed our talks together. I will deeply miss his warm smile shining up at me during worship.
I grew to love and respect Kevin during his time spent here with us at Newbury Court at Rivercrest rehab facility in Concord, Ma.
I will miss seeing him in chapel smiling up at me during worship.
He was always so kind to all who served him. He was also always ready to offer a smile to all of us.
Eternal rest grant unto him oh God, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the soul of Kevin and all the souls of the faithful departed thru the mercy of God rest in peace.
Kevin was a dear man and loved by many students and friends during his many years teaching at Stetson University. We have missed him since this disease forced him into early retirement. I am so happy to have known him.
Kevin was one of the students’ favorite teachers. His grasp of history and phenomenal memory were respected and praised by all. His last act of kindness was to leave his body for medical research. This fits well with his life of concern for others.
Kevin was a dear friend of myself and particularly my husband, a fellow faculty member at Stetson University. My husband never stopped talking about the fun they had on a university Winter Term trip for the students to Russia, before the wall came down.
Kevin well portrayed the roles of friend, scholar, and
loved teacher. He was a highly respected member of the Stetson faculty, and his students ranked him highly
as both professor and mentor. He had an infectious
smile and friendly demeanor. Stetson was a better
place with his presence. We shall miss him.
Gary Meadows ( April 13, 2017)
Kevin joined the Stetson University faculty the same year I did (1975). He was a great colleague, a true friend, and a wonderful man! He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
Kevin was a tremendous asset to the Stetson community; a beloved teacher and well-respected colleague. We loved his enthusiasm and good humor…gone too soon and deeply missed by all who knew him.
Kevin was a warm and generous colleague, and one of the sanest men I have known. Even through this moment of sadness, I smile to remember our many wonderful conversations.
I took my first class at Stetson with Dr. O’Keefe in the summer of 1993 after having been out of school for many, many years. It was not my last class with him. I was a Social Science/History/Geography major and I took as many courses as a I could with him. I will never forget how great he was as a professor, who loved History, as did I, and who was so passionate in his teachings. I am so very sad to hear of his passing and have thought of him often since his retirement. He his at peace now and in no pain and for that I am thankful! RIP Dr. O’Keefe.
I have many fond memories of Kevin and the O’keefe Family as I grew up on Eliot Ave. I remember volunteering with him bringing people to Mass at Goldwater Hospital on Sunday mornings.
Many times when he was in the neighborhood he would stop bye to say hello. I had heard that he had Parkinsons Disease from my sister Eileen,
My deepest sympathy to all the family.
Sincerely, Anne Moran Wright
Dr. O’Keefe was a great teacher, fraternity adviser and person. He will be missed.
Dr. O’Keefe was a favorite professor of mine not only because of his passion for teaching History but also for the thoughtfulness and concern he demonstrated for students like me who may have needed a bit more attention to be successful. His little bit of goofiness did not mask his brilliance.
It has been a deep consolation reading all these marvelous condolences. My freshman year was Kevin’s first at Stetson and I took him for USA and UK history. My senior year, 1978-79, when I was editor of THE STETSON REPORTER, I asked Kevin to serve as our faculty advisor, to which he chortlingly agreed. Through Stetson Law and then my life as a Jesuit, I’d often visit Kevin in DeLand, just to keep in touch. He kindly attended my mother’s funeral in Ponte Vedra Beach in 2002. I met his own mother in DeLand and once said mass in his condo for them both. I even visited him at the beach house at Kilkee, Ireland.
In the 1990’s, I pursued a PhD at Berkeley and Kevin always expressed interest and support. I’ve been a scholar-teacher since 2001 and, to be honest, I often remember Kevin when I’m doing the professor thing. For five years now, I’ve been in the Bronx, at Fordham University, and although I’m not living in Kevin’s home borough or connected with CUNY or NYU, I often think of Kevin, his Irish looks and NY accent. I didn’t see him again after he left DeLand, but he’s one of those professors one never forgets.
I’m sad he’s gone, but consoled that his struggles are done. My prayers for his repose and for those who grieve his death.
A favorite O’Keefe story: when he interviewed for the Stetson job at his professional academic historical association, he had no idea where Stetson was located and upon investigation, was surprised to discover that it wasn’t located somewhere in Texas, where any true New Yorker might understandably think a college named after a cowboy hat would exist. Lucky for us, Kevin came to Florida and enriched many lives.
Kevin O”Keefe was truly a scholar and gentleman and my colleague and friend in the Stetson University Department of History. He was admired by students and faculty alike for his contributions to the Stetson community, but unhappily his career was cut short by Parkinson’s disease,
Kevin was kind and loving, witty and warm. I remember how he took care of me and our brother, Gerald after our father died on November 16, 1954. He took Gerald and I under his wing. Among his many dedications, he would take the two of us for a walk to the public library every Saturday morning. Yes, he was a teacher at that early age. He was 13 yrs old, I was 11 and Gerald was 12 at the time. He would take us to ‘the city ‘ by the subway and visit museums, the United Nations building. He would take us to lunch at Horn and Hardart, a famous NYC restaurant where you could eat for a small handful of nickels and dimes! My lips are smiling and my eyes are tearing with joy; Wadda brother, mentor, teacher and friend to all who were lucky to spend time with him.
I knew Kevin, primarily through his younger brother Peter, who adored him !
His kindness, generosity and loving care of his/ their mom were things Peter always spoke about. Since his death his niece Meg has published numerous great photos of Kevin in happy moments.
Peter was very fortunate to have Meg take him to Boston , in the midst of a raging snowstorm to see Kevin before he passed. Meg your uncle is smiling down on you.
I was fortunate to care for Kevin. He was so kind, intelligent and funny. I looked forward to visiting him each day. We would discuss the election, and he would talk, with great affection, about his family. He had great dignity in how he traversed Parkinsons. He always maintained a good nature and humor. He truly was a teacher in living and letting go.
I am glad I got to spend time with him.
Much Warmth to his Family and Friends,