Mr. O'Keeffe died of cancer last week at his home in Meaford. He was 62.
He began teaching high school math and business at West Hill Secondary School in 1963 and eventually became principal there and at Georgian Bay and Grey Highlands secondary schools. He was superintendent of programming with the Grey County Board of Education for six years until 1989.
After retiring, he worked as a travel and business consultant and pursued his political interests.
Mr. O'Keeffe ran Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Murdock's first successful campaign in 1990 and ran unsuccessfully for the federal Progressive Conservatives in the 1993 election. Liberal Ovid Jackson was elected.
Murdoch recalled his one-time campaign manager as a decisive organizer who welcomed challenges and rarely spoke ill of others, even during the heat of an election campaign. "He could be firm but nice", Murdock said. "When he made a decision you never questioned it."
A quiet natural motivator and efficient leader, Mr. O'Keeffe's gifts as an educational administrator were his even temper and how he worked with people to include others in decisions. "He was the master of the soft approach", fellow school principal Scott Cameron said. "He had a unique ability to get people on side. He made people feel good about themselves."
"He worked with people and made people work with him, not for him", said Jack Morgan, the Grey superintendent of secondary education. "He was a democrat in that sense as a leader, which is the best kind of leader to be in a school system."
Morgan, who followed Mr. O'Keeffe as GBSS principal and later as superintendent, said he was also known for common sense. His schools were well managed financially.
"He was the type of individual you could talk sense to", said Bob Mackay, who ran Mr. O'Keeffe's election campaign. His friend's political motives were unselfish. "He wanted to make things better", Mackey said.
Raised in Elora, Mr. O'Keeffe attended Royal Military College. Military service took him to Zaire as a UN peacekeeper before he returned to Canada and a teaching career.
He was commanding officer of the Grey and Simcoe County Foresters militia after moving to Owen Sound to teach.
M. O'Keeffe is survived by his wife Patricia, son Douglas and daughter Lauren. A family service was held at Meaford United Church on Sunday, March 30.
Return to Home Page