'Work to Live, Don't Live to Work'

By Bill Kaufman

June 21, 2002

For Long Islander Patrick J. O'Keefe, life focused mainly on three things: his family, his job as a New York City firefighter and his dream - of retiring and sailing his boat to exciting destinations.

O'Keefe, 44, of Oakdale, was a member of the fire department's elite Rescue Co. No. 1, based on West 43rd Street. Along with the dreams of all the other victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, his own ended in a stairwell between the 20th and 40th floors of Tower One, said his daughter, Jennifer, 20.

"His truck was parked under the north tower," she said, adding that his remains were discovered about a week after the attacks. A student at the University of Maryland in College Park, Jennifer O'Keefe said her father had been a firefighter for more than 20 years. "He was very proud he worked for the fire department," she said.

O'Keefe grew up in Lynbrook and graduated from its high school, where he was on the track team.

"His motto was, 'Work to live, don't live to work,'" recalled his wife, Karen. But his perilous occupation somewhat contradicted his motto. His wife recalled that her husband "worked hard and played hard," and was a "typical smiling Irishman." She described him as an "awesome" father and a kind and considerate person. Because of their often heroic jobs, she referred to her husband and all firefighters as "a special breed of cat."

The couple, who had been married for 22 years, owned a 22-foot sailboat, but O'Keefe's lifelong wish was to have a larger vessel. "His dream was to retire on a sailboat and cruise the islands," she said.

In addition to his wife and daughter, O'Keefe is survived by his son, Timothy, 15, a student at Connetquot High School; his parents, Patrick and Ann O'Keefe of East Rockaway; two sisters, Noreen Costello of Lynbrook and Nancy Kreutzer of Williamsburg, Va.; and two brothers, Dennis O'Keefe of Wall, N.J., and Timothy O'Keefe of East Rockaway.

A funeral Mass was said on Sept.29 at St. John Nepomucene Church in Bohemia. Burial was in Queen of All Saints Cemetery, located in Central Islip.