Claire Marie O'Keefe

claire o'keefe
Claire Marie Fullan O'Keefe (1921-2012) Claire Marie Fullan was born in Brooklyn , NY on March 31, 1921. Her husband, youngest son, and son-in-law teased her, claiming that the date was really April Fools day. She'd respond with the facts (the birth hour) and a bemused glance that made everyone laugh. That ability was a constant in her life. The 1939 “Commencement” issue of Bishop McDonnell Memorial High in Brooklyn had this to say about Claire: “Her inexhaustible store of humor must rise from a full, happy heart.” In her final years, Parkinson's disease often exhausted her, but that humor still shown through. One morning during a physical therapy session at Bethesda Garden Assisted Living in Arlington, TX, a kind resident, a retired priest, insisted on walking out of his way to avoid disturbing the exercises. She laughed, “What, are you afraid I'll bite you?” The “Commencement” issue predicted other lifelong trends: “Library Page” and “Secretarial Club.” After graduation, she did secretarial work for an insurance company in Manhattan. Decades later in the early 1960s, she assisted in the library at East Rockaway High School in Long Island, NY, and later in 1960's, when Pan American transferred her husband William V. O'Keefe from Kennedy to Miami Airport, she landed a job that combined her love of books and her secretarial skills. She worked in the library/media center at McArthur High School in Hollywood, FL. In between her graduation and the move to Florida, Claire's life was full. The 1940s witnessed a grand personal event -- her marriage to Bill O'Keefe, and a grand event in history. It was a beautiful day in Manhattan. She decided to walk to the train station instead of taking the subway. Suddenly she saw people throwing open their windows and waving, and people shouting in the streets. The Japanese surrendered. She was at the center of a national V-J Day celebration and probably just a few blocks from that famous photo shot of the sailor's kiss in Times Square. The in-between years were filled with work on the home front – a home front that moved from Brooklyn to East Rockaway, to Valley Stream, Long Island, and back to East Rockaway. Claire and Bill often had to support, care for, or house one or more of their parents. While Bill worked up to three jobs, Claire had the primary responsibility for raising Claire (Micki, b. 1946), William (Bill, b. 1948), Maureen (Renie, b. 1950) and Robert (Bob, b. 1958). The years beyond the 1960s brought new challenges and new joys. Claire retired in 1984. Much of the next two years were filled with caring for Bill, Sr., as his health declined. After his passing in 1986, she moved to Century Village in Pembroke Pines, FL. She was an active member of the Irish Club and she traveled: to Charleston with Micki, to the West coast with New York high school friends, to the Grand Canyon with Micki's family, and all the way to Canada with a Century Village group (she loved the trip but complained that the old folks always wanted to stop at casinos). Her five great grandchildren brought her joy, and she took great pride in her six grandchildren: two completed Ph. D's, one completed Master's, one completing law school, one Harvard B.A., and one about to graduate high school. The move to Texas in 2010 and the progression of the Parkinson's were challenging, but her sense of humor and beautiful smile proved that the high school “happy heart” still beat strong.

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