Senator Michael Hanley O’Keefe died peacefully at his Lakeview home on Sunday, January 31st in the 20th Senatorial District of New Orleans. Senator O’Keefe was born on December 1, 1931, in the New Orleans Irish Channel. He was one of the four children of Judge Arthur Joseph O’Keefe, Jr. and Eleonora Gordon O’Keefe. He married Jean Van Geffen O’Keefe on June 18, 1955, his loving and much loved wife, deceased in October, 1989. He was preceded in death by his sister Eleonora O’Keefe Ibert and his brothers Arthur Joseph O’Keefe, III and Captain Patrick O’Keefe. He is survived by his son Michael Hanley O’Keefe, Jr. and his daughter Erin O’Keefe Schmidt and his son-in-law Eric Schmidt. Senator O’Keefe is also survived by his three beloved grandsons – Michael Hanley O’Keefe, III (Juliet), Eric Talbot Schmidt, Jr. and Gordon Christian Schmidt. Senator O’Keefe was a third generation native New Orleanian. He was a graduate of Jesuit High School, Loyola University and Loyola School of Law. He served in the Military Police of the U.S. Army in Fort Hood, Texas. His lifelong beliefs in racial equality and social justice flourished early in his college career, at which time he became active in the beginning of the movement to desegregate our state. He was elected State Senator at the age of 29. In 1960, during his initial term in the senate, he accomplished what he believed to be his most important political achievement by introducing the first bill to de-segregate Louisiana schools. For 24 years, he dutifully served the citizens of Senatorial District 20 as well as the interests of our entire state. In 1976, O’Keefe was unanimously elected by his fellow Senators to be the first member of the Senate to serve as its President, at which position he served until his retirement in 1984. Even among his profound political accomplishments, he found his greatest joy in his family and friends. We will be forever grateful for the compassion shown and the care given by Dr. Thomas Cosgriff and his unforgettable staff at both the E.J.G.H. Joe Yenni Cancer Center and Lakeside Hospice for the precious time they afforded us with him. Our father and family would appreciate any donation to the American Cancer Society in place of flowers. On Saturday, February 6, 2021, at St. Pius X Church, 6666 Spanish Fort Blvd., New Orleans, visitation will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., followed by a Mass for the family. Due to COVID 19 regulations, please follow the current restrictions and everyone attending is required to wear a mask and adhere to social distancing.
Funeral Mass will not be Live Streamed, but will be tape and available to view on this site in a few days.
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