The obituary of Jerry O’Keefe

Here is the obituary of War War II hero, former mayor, legislator, and community leader Jeremiah J. “Jerry” O’Keefe, as released by Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Homes:

Jeremiah Joseph O’Keefe, III

July 12, 1923 – August 23, 2016

Jeremiah Joseph “Jerry” O’Keefe, III, 93, of Biloxi died August 23, 2016.

Mr. O’Keefe was born in Ocean Springs in 1923 and was schooled at St. Alphonsus Elementary School and later Sacred Heart Academy in Biloxi. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Jerry enlisted, hoping to become a pilot.  He received his wings from the U.S. Marines in May, 1943.  In 1944, before leaving for his assignment with the Pacific Fleet, he married his childhood sweetheart, Annette Saxon, and started what would be a family of thirteen children.  During combat, Jerry earned the status of ‘ace’ fighter pilot and was later awarded the US Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, Gold Star and, in 2015, the Congressional Gold Medal for American Aces.

After the war, Mr. O’Keefe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and rejoined the family funeral business, over which he assumed control upon the disability and death of his father.  He later acquired the Bradford Funeral Home, forming Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Services.  With wife Annette, he founded Gulf National Life Insurance Company in 1958.  Jerry loved public service, serving in the MS State Legislature from 1959 to 1963 and as Mayor of Biloxi from 1973 to 1981.  He also was a generous philanthropist and tireless fundraiser for charities, including Nativity BVM Catholic Church, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, and the Boy Scouts.  He and Annette founded the O’Keefe Foundation in 1996 to benefit local charities and, upon Annette’s death in 1998, he initiated a lead gift in support of the George Ohr Museum’s plan to build a new facility.  As the project grew in scope, Jerry assumed major fundraising duties for the museum and it was ultimately renamed the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Annette’s honor.  In 1999 Jerry married Martha Peterson, with whom he enjoyed the final 17 years of his life.  They continued the family’s varied activities in style and grace.

Jerry was preceded in death by his parents Jeremiah J. “Ben” O’Keefe II and Teresa Slattery O’Keefe, wife Annette Saxon O’Keefe; siblings Alice O’Keefe Sebastian, Dr. John B. O’Keefe, and J. Ben O’Keefe; children Jeremiah J. “Jody” O’Keefe IV, and James P. O’Keefe; and grandchildren Justin Brown, Adam O’Keefe, and Alison Neustrom.

He is survived by his wife Martha Peterson O’Keefe, her son Steve Peterson (Colleen); children Maureen O’Keefe Ward (Pat), Cecilia O’Keefe Neustrom (Michael), Kathryn O’Keefe Kaye (John), Virginia O’Keefe, Susan O’Keefe Snyder (Chris), John M. O’Keefe (Leah), Mary O’Keefe Snell (Bob), Jeffrey H. O’Keefe (Lynn), Justin B. O’Keefe (Teresa), Mercedes O’Keefe Huval (David), and Joseph S. O’Keefe (Stephanie); daughters-in-law Annette L. O’Keefe and Janie B. O’Keefe; grandchildren Allie and Kyle Peterson, Sam Ward, Will Ward, Tess Lawrence, Shannon O’Keefe, Jeremiah J. O’Keefe V, Erin Young, Kimberly Neustrom, Vanessa Tarlton, Emily Neustrom, Ben Neustrom, Tom Neustrom, Katelyn Brown Catterall, Joshua Brown, Clinton Brown, Kellie O’Keefe, Courtney O’Keefe, Chris O’Keefe, Kevin O’Keefe, Caleb O’Keefe, Rose Rider, Cecilia Snyder, Susannah Snyder, John M. O’Keefe, Jr., Jeanne O’Keefe, Bridgette Lovelace, Robert Snell III, Jeffrey O’Keefe, Jr., Jacob O’Keefe, Jordan O’Keefe, Justice Duhon, Jules O’Keefe, Miles O’Keefe, Ellen Huval, David Huval III, Mary Kathryn Huval, Jody O’Keefe and Keely O’Keefe; 33 great- grandchildren; and dozens of nieces and nephews.  The family wishes to express its great appreciation to Jerry’s many devoted caregivers, including Sonja Evans, Lottie Evans, Dr. Paul Pavlov, his nurse Twy Kirkland, and Dr. Eva Magiros.

Visitation will be at the Porter Avenue, Ocean Springs, location of Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Homes from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the Nativity BVM Cathedral, Biloxi, at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Friends may visit from 9 a.m. until Mass. The Patriot Guard and a group of pilots will participate in the procession across the Ocean Springs bridge. A horse-drawn hearse will join the cortege at Porter Avenue for the journey to Evergreen Cemetery for interment with full military honors.  Memorial gifts may be made to the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, P.O. Box 248, Biloxi, MS 39532.

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