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Archives Remembering Father Keefe
‘I enjoyed being a priest from day one’

April 17, 2024

By Darcy Fargo

“Father Herbert Hannan was the first Catholic priest to be principal at St. John’s (Academy in Plattsburgh) … He put the idea in my head. I’d imagine being a priest, but I didn’t think so. It was too grandiose a calling. I could never imagine the good Lord would call me for such a vocation.”

Those lines were delivered by Father Daniel T. Keefe, reflecting on his call to the priesthood as he prepared to celebrate the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood this May.

Father Keefe didn’t get to see that anniversary. He died Thursday, April 11, 2024, at Elderwood of Uihlein at Lake Placid. He was 95.

Despite his initial impressions, the Lord did call Father Keefe to a priesthood that spanned nearly seven decades.

Asked what he loved most about his priesthood, Father Keefe sat silent for a few seconds before smiling coyly.
“The job description,” he said. “We’re always called to be for the people and to bring them the message. Be available for people for the sacraments. We’re a sacramental church. Serve people, serve the Lord. It’s a privilege. I enjoyed being a priest from day one.”

Father Keefe noted that he felt it was a privilege to experience the full human experience with those to whom he ministered.

“You’re there for the happy and sad times,” he said. “Flexible – you have to be flexible. No matter who it is. It doesn’t mean you don’t care what’s good and bad. You just help. It’s a privilege to be a priest, to be able to help people, and at the same time, they’re helping you, helping you grow your faith.”

One portion of Father Keefe’s ministry that stood out to him was his time working with young adults at Newman Centers in Potsdam and Plattsburgh.

“Think back to your own days when you were fresh on campus, ready to tackle the world,” he said. “There was a lot of life and kindness.”

Father Keefe said he considered his faith in the Lord to be a beautiful gift, given to him by God with the help of his parents.

“They’ve not canonized my parents yet, but they were good people,” he said. “(Faith) is a gift. Some people struggle with faith and wish they had faith. It’s a privilege to have faith and believe in God and know he’s our friend and he wants to know us. We’re blessed. I just wonder how it would be with no faith. Share with other people the faith you have.

“It’s a privilege helping at times, serving and supporting people in their faith.”

His privilege was a gift to others.

“He had a love of humanity,” said Sherry Gaspar, a longtime friend of Father Keefe’s. “He had a non-judgmental approach to everyone, no matter what age, race, creed, or other barrier they might have. He would just say, ‘we don’t know what goes on in a person’s heart, therefore we need to embrace everybody.’ And he surely did.”

Gaspar said she became friends with Father Keefe when he became pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Malone in 1984.

“We just started to chat and became friends,” she said. “I was in charge of altar servers, so we worked together because of that. There were a group of us that became friends. He referred to us as ‘the Malone mafia.’ Even after he left Malone, we would all get together for dinner, socialize and have good times.”

Gaspar said Father Keefe aided her brother in a personal matter before helping her through the end of her first marriage and subsequent annulment of that marriage.

“He helped me with the annulment, and he arranged for counseling for me,” she said. “We’ve been through trials together. He was a good person with a good heart.”

Gaspar said Father Keefe quickly became friends with nearly everyone he met, partly because of his kindness and humility and partly because of his wit.

“I would describe his personality as a true Irishman with a wonderful sense of humor who loved God above all and communicated that love to anyone he met,” she said. “But that Irish sense of humor was outstanding. He always had a comeback or a quick response. But he was a humble person. He continued to be that his entire life. I think that was a character trait that drew people to him. He didn’t aspire to anything more than what he was as a parish priest, tending to his flock. I think he typified what we all wish to have in our priests.”

And those friendships were lasting ones.

“’The Malone mafia’ went down for his 95th birthday (in February),” she said. “He drew his strength from being with people and forging friendships. Even in the nursing home this week, when he wasn’t out of his room interacting with people on Monday and Tuesday, everyone was concerned. Even at 95, he was interacting and social. I think there are a lot of sad people today.”


Mass of Christian Burial celebrated for Fr. Keefe

A Mass of Christian Burial for Father Daniel T. Keefe was celebrated at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 19, 2024, at St. John’s Church in Plattsburgh. Bishop Terry R. LaValley was principal celebrant, and Msgr. Leeward J. Poissant was the homilist.

Burial followed in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Plattsburgh.

Father Keefe died April 11, 2024, at Elderwood of Uihlein at Lake Placid, where he had been a resident. He was 95.

Born February 27, 1929, in Plattsburgh, he was the son of Francis J. and Kathryn (Tobin) Keefe.

He graduated from St. John’s Academy, Plattsburgh, in 1946. Immediately after, he attended Wadhams Hall in Ogdensburg and St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Walter P. Kellenberg on May 22, 1954, at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Ogdensburg.

Father Keefe began his ministry as parochial vicar at Church of the Holy Family in Watertown. He then served in that role at St. Patrick’s Church in Chateaugay. During that assignment, he also spent a year as Deanery Youth Director. After serving most of 1958 as administrator of Church of the Immaculate Conception in Keeseville, he became parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Church in Potsdam, with additional duties as moderator of the Newman Club and Father Prior of the Columbian Squire Circle -1096 in Potsdam. He was later parochial vicar at St. Joseph’s Church in Dannemora, with additional duties as teacher at the Catholic school in Redford and chaplain for the Knights of Columbus Council -2166 in Dannemora. His next assignment was as administrator at St. Patrick’s Church in Rossie and St. Peter’s Church in Hammond, later becoming pastor of those churches. During his first assignment as pastor, he also served on the Senate of Priests, as Defender of the Bond and as seminary confessor at Wadhams Hall.

In 1969, Father Keefe was named pastor of the John XXIII College Community Center in Plattsburgh, a role he held until 1984. During that time, he was also named diocesan director of Newman Campus Ministry and a member of the Liturgical Commission. He was later named pastor of St. Joseph’s in Malone followed by St. Mary’s of the Lake in Cumberland Head, also serving on the Council of Priests, as dean of the Franklin Deanery, on the Priest Personnel Board and as dean of Clinton Deanery.

He was later named pastor of St. Joseph’s in Malone also serving on the Council of Priests, as dean of the Franklin Deanery, on the Priest Personnel Board. Father Keefe’s final assignment before retirement was pastor of St. Mary’s of the Lake in Cumberland Head and as dean of Clinton Deanery.

He retired in June of 2004.

In addition to his parents, Father Keefe was predeceased by his brothers, James Keefe and Jack Keefe; and nephews, Kevin Keefe and Daniel Keefe; and brother-in-law Bruce Cornell.

Father Keefe is survived by his sisters-in-law, Margaret Keefe and Mary (John) Roach; nephews, Patrick Keefe and Sean Bedard; and nieces, Doreen Cornell, Donna Keefe (Don) Dick and Molly (Christopher) LaMountain.

Arrangements were under the care of Brown Funeral Home, and the funeral Mass was streamed on the funeral home’s Facebook page.

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