Any attempts to describe the life and times of Paul OKeeffe would fall short of reality. Mere words can not capture the essence of a man of such great depth and breadth. He was a man dedicated to the service of others.
Paul J. OKeeffe, a former Mayor of Plainfield and Union County Freeholder, died Monday, March 15, 2004 after a long illness with his family by his side. He was born and raised in Plainfield and lived in Sea Girt more recently. His accomplishments in the political arena are well known throughout central New Jersey and the State.
Paul served eight years (1965-1973) as a Plainfield councilman acting as President four of these years. He was elected Mayor and held that office from 1973 through 1981 during the very difficult period of civil unrest and racial division in the city. He was the right man for the job at the rigt time. His love of his fellow man, his compassion, and his belief in the dignity of each individual earned him the respect of the entire community. He was a healing force. Later, Paul was elected to the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders where he served from 1984 to 1989. He was Board Chairman in 1986.
During Pauls service on the City Council, he actively promoted the federal Model Cities program and, as a result of this successful program, Plainfield was selected as one of 10 All American cities in 1977 by the National League of Municipalities.
Despite his political successes, Paul never put himself first but believed he was simply an instrument to help others. He found humor in even the most serious of lifes problems. When his friends chided him about being Superman it became a characterization that stuck and Paul often used it for lighthearted fun with friends and neighborhood children. As one very close friend put it, He will always be Superman to us.
Mr. OKeeffe graduated from Plainfield High School as class president in 1951 and Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts in 1955. He was a United States Navy Veteran. Paul was a longtime parishioner of St. Marys Church in Plainfield and a member of the church choir. He worked with Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Corporation serving as regional vice-president and finished his business career with the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.
The Plainfield High School Alumni Association inducted Paul into its Hall of Fame in 2000. Throughout his career and even in retirement he received numerous awards for his civic activities including the 1982 Jaycees Award for Distinguished Service, the NAACP Award for Outstanding Leadership/Community and Civic Affairs and, more recently, the Founders Award from the Plainfield Health Center and the Distinguished Service Award from the Plainfield City Council in January, 2004.
From 1993 to 1996 he was a member of the Union County College Board of Governors. More recently, Paul worked with the Sea Girt Fire and Police Squads and held membership in the Belmar Fishing Club. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, Council 552 in Plainfield and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Mr. OKeeffee is survived by his wife of 43 years, Lori Peterson OKeeffee of Sea Girt; two sons, John Kevin of Plainfield, Patrick and his wife Linda of Castle-on-Hudson, NY and a grandson, Christopher Patrick. He is also survived by two brothers, John OKeeffee of Tequesta, Florida and Gerald OKeeffee of Spring Lake heights, NJ. He is predeceased in death by his father, John P. OKeeffee and his mother, Frances regan OKeeffee.
A Memorial Mass is planned for Saturday, March 20, 2004 at 11:00 a.m. at St. Marys Church, 516 W. Sixth Street, Plainfield, NJ. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Paul J. OKeeffee Scholarship Fund, Union County College, 1033 Springfield Avenue, Cranford, NJ 07016