Edward M. O’Keefe

June 1, 1930 - August 3, 2022
Edward M. O’Keefe

Edward Michael O’Keefe, PH.D., 92, of Mills River, North Carolina, passed away on August 3, 2022.

Beloved husband of Romella (Hart) of 32, Edward was originally from Niagara Falls, New York, a son of the late Leo and Leona O’Keefe. A life long educator, he began his career with the Order of the Passionate in preparation for becoming a priest. Known as Brother Walter, as a novitiate, he was in religious training, 1946-1956. He left seminary to continue his education, earning his B.A. from Niagara University, M.A. from Canisius College and Ph.D. in higher education from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1974. He taught Jr. H.S. students in Niagara Falls and Eggertsville, New York, for over nine years, then became the Placement Director at Niagara University for five years. Returning to teaching, he taught college English and Writing for over 25 years, eventually becoming the Dean of Academic Affairs at Niagara County Community College, and the acting President of that institution for a short period, teaching until his retirement in 1996.

Edward returned to school to become a Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist. Graduating in 1998, he practiced in Buffalo, New York, and Mills River, North Carolina, for 21 years. He was also an ordained non-denominational minster who (along with his wife) served as interim minsters, established chaplain programs, led retreats in three churches and team-taught meditation, dowsing, EFT and Hawaiian spirituality.

For many decades, Edward was a fighter for social justice and environmental concerns, beginning with his involvement in the civil rights movements in the 1960s, mental health associations, educational organizations, churches, and environmental groups. A very spiritual peacemaker, he helped guide many others on their spiritual journeys and volunteered as a suicide hotline operator and as a mediator for dispute resolution. He was an avid reader of social justice, environmental issues, philosophy, religion and spiritual practice, and his spiritual searching and teachings  culminated in writing poetry and a book titled Take It from the Top: What to Do with a Peak Experience, published in 2012. Edward also wrote a monthly environmental newsletter until May 2022.

Edward is survived by his wife, Romella (Hart), and by his six children: Judy (Bruce) Lager, Joseph (the late Marty Zajac) O’Keefe, Michael La Shomb, Rita Franc, Mark (Cindy) O’Keefe and Vincent (Michele Colangelo) O’Keefe. He is also survived by three stepsons: Bill Hedrick, Thomas (Sharon) Hedrick and Jonathan Hedrick. He is also survived by ten grandchildren, two great grandchildren, cherished friends, cousins, sisters-in-laws, brothers-in-laws, nieces and nephews. He was the brother of Mary Lou Scheel, Patrick O’Keefe and Robert O’Keefe. Edward was predeceased by siblings Leo O’Keefe, Elizabeth Erickson, James O’Keefe and Raymond O’Keefe. He was also predeceased by former spouse Jacqueline (Brett) O’Keefe.

A celebration of Edward’s life will be held at First Congregational Church of Hendersonville, North Carolina, on August 20, 2022, at 1:30 in the afternoon. A second celebration of life will occur in Western New York on a date to be announced.

In lieu of flowers, plant a tree, contribute to the memorial fund at First Congregational Church or to your favorite charity.


Yesterday’s Sweetness

I am being asked to let go of yesterday’s sweetness.

Yesterday’s way of looking at the world and coping with it.

I am reluctant because yesterday was so much better than last week.

I was finally comfortable with myself as I intersect the world.

Now that is to be swept away in great dry heat-

I am to breathe into the moment as I let go the past,

Not only the distant past, but even the earlier today.

Behold, I make all things new

~Ed O’Keefe (May 24, 1989)




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  • August 12, 2022
    Randy Atlas says:
    Well, this is embarrassing. I made two posts accidentally. I didn't think the first one took. If someone from the funeral home could please delete one of them, maybe it would look less embarrassing... Ed would have gotten a kick out of this!

  • August 12, 2022
    Randy Atlas says:
    I met Ed and Romella around 2002, when they were co-ministers at Unity Church of Practical Christianity, Buffalo NY. Ed always had a gentle, calming manner about him. Whenever we approached each other, I felt I was about to speak with a living legend, given his extensive background in education, etc. and all his accomplishments. But he would always be so interested in what was going on in my world. He was such a wonderful, kind soul. And, his hearty laugh sure was contagious. He had a great sense of humor. Now Ed is at peace. I always thought he was at peace; it's just a different kind of peace now. An extension of the peace that is Ed. My condolences to Romella and the rest of the family, and so many friends. Much love, Randy Atlas (and Mary Kay, who used to sing with Romella!) (and Sofia, too... Ed made it a point to ask about her, from 2006 onward.)

  • August 12, 2022
    Randy Atlas says:
    I was saddened to read about the passing of Ed. I met Ed and Romella around 2002 when the two were co-ministers (interim) at Unity Church of Practical Christianity, in Buffalo. Ed was always had a gentle, soothing manner about him. Whenever I spoke with him, I felt like I was speaking with a living legend, given his extensive background in education, etc. But Ed tended to put the focus on me, and what was happening in my world. What a guy. Always flashing that cheerful smile, too. My condolences to Romella and the rest of the family and so many friends. Ed is at peace now. I believe he was always at peace in some way; it's just a different version of peace now. Much love, Randy Atlas (and Mary Kay, too... she used to SING with Romella!)

  • August 11, 2022
    Niagara County Community College Foundation says:
    We were so saddened to hear of Dr. O'Keefe's passing. On behalf of Niagara County Community College President Dr. Wm Murabito, and the NCCC Community, we wish to extend our sympathies for the loss of a long time and valued member of the NCCC family. What a remarkable life - lived to the fullest! We were proud to have him represent NCCC and he was respected by students and peers alike. On behalf of the NCCC family we wish you peace and comfort at this difficult time.

  • August 09, 2022
    RICHARD J KOCH says:
    I meet Ed in 1992 at Unity Church in Buffalo, New York. He was a leader, spiritual master, and a gentlemen. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to Romella and the rest of the family.