Dreams fulfilled for retiring Mountie

Danette Dooley
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Danny O'Keefe retires from the RCMP at the end of this month. O'Keefe joined the force at age 53, following a teaching career. - Photo by Danette Dooley/ Special to The Telegram

Danny O'Keefe wasn't surprised when several classmates at the RCMP training depot in Saskatchewan mistook him for an instructor in 2000. At age 53, O'Keefe was 35 years older than his youngest troopmate and decades older than many others.

"Before they got to know who I was, some of them would say, 'Good morning, sir,' until they realized I was in the class," he said.

That was O'Keefe's second time at depot and third time applying to the force.

A native of Ferryland, O'Keefe initially applied as a young teenager out of high school. When he didn't meet the physical requirements, he headed to Memorial University to earn a bachelor of education.

O'Keefe was accepted into the RCMP training program in 1975. However, he left before graduation and returned to his job as a teacher.

"The timing just wasn't right for me back then," O'Keefe said.

He went on to earn masters degrees in educational administration and learning resources, as well as a certificate in criminology and taught for 30 years in the Ferryland area.

By the time he retired from teaching in 1997, he'd spent a decade as an auxiliary constable with the federal police force. He also served on the Ferryland town council, with the volunteer fire brigade and in numerous other community initiatives.

O'Keefe returned to RCMP training depot in August 2000. Upon graduation, he was assigned to the Trinity Conception District. He did general policing duties in Bay Roberts and Old Perlican for most of his career, prior to getting the position of court liaison for the district based in Harbour Grace and will retire April 30.

O'Keefe, who celebrated his 65th birthday on April 4, is the second oldest RCMP officer in the country and the oldest in Atlantic Canada.

He's given many hours of his time to the Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics.

He gets much more out of his involvement with the organization than he gives, he says.

"I went to Quebec City with them in 2008 for the winter games. There were something like 1,500-2,000 athletes gathered in a snowstorm on the Plains of Abraham. You just could see where you were, but not one of them complained. They just stayed there all through the opening ceremonies."

O'Keefe said his wife, Marie, and his entire family have always supported him in both his working life and volunteer commitments.

Marie, a Calvert native, is also a retired teacher and they have been married 40 years.

Their son, Andre, is a carpenter in Mount Pearl. Their daughter, Danielle, is a physician in St. John's. Son, Regan, an RCMP constable in Blackville, N.B, and wife, Melissa, are expecting a child in June - O'Keefe's first grandchild.

O'Keefe said, like teaching, policing has also been a rewarding career.

"I have made a lot of community contacts from one end of the district to the other. All the people I worked with, the RCMP, (Her Majesty's Penitentiary), court staff and crown attorneys were excellent to deal with. It's been a great place to work," he said.

While it's time to retire for a second time, O'Keefe likely won't sit idle. He's hoping to run the Tely 10 for the 22nd time in July.

Never one for "what ifs," O'Keefe said if you want something badly enough, go for it.

"It's never too late to try something new or to pursue your life-long dream," he said.

Sgt. Marc Coulombe worked with O'Keefe before moving to St. John's to become media relations officer in January.

Many people are inspired when they hear O'Keefe's story of how he went through training in 2000 and accomplished the goal he'd set back in the mid-1970s, Coulombe said.

"He's a great man. He's dedicated to the job. He's dedicated to the people. He's just a joy to work with, a joy to be around," Coulombe said.

Cpl. Kent Coish graduated a few years before O'Keefe and heard his name long before he moved to the Trinity Conception District less than a year ago.

"I remember when he was going through depot. The word around was that he was an older gentleman from Newfoundland, but that physically he was something to be reckoned with in his troop," Coish said.

At the end of the training, O'Keefe placed second in physical fitness assessment.

Coish said O'Keefe is always upbeat and positive and is well respected in the community and the district. Young officers see him as a father figure, he said.

"Sometimes, you don't realize what you have until it's gone. And I believe that's the way it's going to be with Danny's retirement. We will fill his position but he will be missed for a long time to come," Coish said.

telegram@thetelegram.com danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: RCMP, Special Olympics

Geographic location: Ferryland, Saskatchewan, Trinity Conception District St. John's Bay Roberts Old Perlican Harbour Grace Atlantic Canada Quebec City Calvert Mount Pearl Blackville Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Mercedes siska
    April 26, 2012 - 23:02

    Congratulations Danny on your retirement. What a wonderful story on your many accomplishments but the best time of your life is just getting ready to start - a new role as Grandpa!!! Congratulations to you and Marie. See you in a few months.

  • Bill williams,friend from Ferryland
    April 25, 2012 - 20:29

    Congratulations and best wishes Danny, on your up coming retirement-- two great careers to be very proud of, you accomplished alot, but I bet your not finished yet

  • flyinbrianpowell
    April 24, 2012 - 21:13

    obviously a very well respected man and kudos to you. Now that you've moved on, seems like a man with your know how and respect belongs in that big brick building up on confederation hill on prince philip drive. After reading most of that budget released today, some of them need some teaching.

  • Paulette
    April 24, 2012 - 08:18

    Congrats Danny! Very inspirining story..You should be very proud. Good Luck in your future endeavors..

  • sonya mackey
    April 24, 2012 - 06:14

    Danny is a great person.I first meet Danny when I started running . He was so supportive and a wealth of knowledge. I wish I had his energy and enthusiasm best wishes. I wonder what he will do next Sonya

  • Paula Johnson
    April 23, 2012 - 21:19

    Hats off to you Danny. You were a great inspiration to Dianne when she was going through. Good Luck in all your dreams and keep me in your pocket of thoughts. Paula

  • Geraldine Kavanagh
    April 23, 2012 - 18:41

    Hi Danny: Congratulations on all your accomplisments. I have never forgot you were so good to my sister in Mobile when she was sick and my son thought you were a great teacher in Baltimore. I know you will enjoy your new grandchild because it is the best. Have a great retirment. Geraldine and Adrian Kavanagh

    • Wendy Carew-Walsh
      April 23, 2012 - 20:21

      Congratulations Mr. O'Keefe!!!! on all your accomplishments and the best of luck with your retirement. Such a great story :)

  • Kelly Cahill
    April 23, 2012 - 18:19

    Congratulations Mr. O'Keefe (it still doesn't feel right to call you Danny)! Hope to see you at the Tely again this year. Running into you at the start/finish line is always a highlight of the day for me.

  • Janice Osborne
    April 23, 2012 - 17:50

    Congratulations Mr. D! You are certainly an inspiration to us all. Enjoy your retirement - I'm sure it will be full of great adventures.

  • celine hartery
    April 23, 2012 - 17:33

    Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Melody Engram
    April 23, 2012 - 17:04

    Congratulations, Mr. O'Keefe! You were always a classroom fave and I cannot imagine that the feeling was any different with the RCMP. Enjoy your retirement - it is well deserved!

  • Krista Quinn Chidley
    April 23, 2012 - 16:23

    What a great story about a great guy. A person who put 100% in to everything and a person we can all learn from. Congratulations on your retirement!!

  • John Curran
    April 23, 2012 - 15:30

    Danny, Congratulations on your retirement and on your achievements. As a former student of yours and as a friend you have always been an inspiration. Academically, athletically and personally, you are truly one of the best! John Curran

  • Tina O'Brien
    April 23, 2012 - 15:26

    Danny always had a way to inspire ya. As a Father,teacher,coach and friend. A lot of the time without ya even knowing. My hats off to ya ....Your accomplishments will and have help me push forward with life. congrats !

  • Valerie Walsh
    April 23, 2012 - 15:25

    Congratulations Danny! You were always one of my favorite teachers! A wonderful educator and lovely man! Enjoy your retirement and your new grandchild! Hope you see you at the finish line of the Tely again this year :-)

  • Sylvia Carter
    April 23, 2012 - 14:53

    Congrats Danny on your many accomplishments. I'm sure your furture won't be boring either.I'm very proud to say I'm related to such a man as you.All the very best for your future endevors as I'm sure there will be more. Take care & God speed. Sylvia.

  • Jackie Boland
    April 23, 2012 - 13:59

    Congratulations Danny on your retirement,..enjoy, well deserved. John and Jackie Boland

  • Wendy O'Brien
    April 23, 2012 - 13:58

    Awesome story! Congratulations on your retirement. You have a lot to be proud of and we wish you all the best in your years ahead. Especially the new role of "Poppy"! We hope to see you soon in Ferryland. Bernie, Wendy, Alex and Olivia

  • Katrina Melvin
    April 23, 2012 - 12:24

    Congratulations Mr.O'Keefe!!!! What an inspiring story.You make us all so proud!!!!

  • Christine Kenny
    April 23, 2012 - 12:04

    Congratulations Danny! You still remain one of my all time favourite teachers, and I can imagine you were a great RCMP Officer as well. All the best on your retirement and next endeavors.

  • Edward Kenny
    April 23, 2012 - 11:42

    Congratulations Danny (Sir). Mr.O' Keefe was one of my teachers in Baltimore High School in Feryland in the 80's and a fine one at that along with being a true gentleman. Best of luck in your retirement.

  • Gabriella Nolander
    April 23, 2012 - 09:19

    Congratulations Mr. O'Keefe on your retirement and good luck with you endeavours in the future.

  • Mary Benedict
    April 23, 2012 - 08:24

    Hi Danny & Marie and congratulations on your determination to attain your life's goal. You are to be admired for your accomplishments. I am your second cousin Danny you will remember me as Gertie Ryan but I have always gone by my first name in my adult years. You have done very well for yourself and your family and congratulations on your first grandchild, enjoy your retirement years you deserve it. Love and best wishes.

  • Wayne McKay
    April 23, 2012 - 06:52

    Congratulations Danny on your retirement from the RCMP. I am retired from the force as well and a fellow Newfoundlander. I remember reading about you when you joined at age 53 years old. You are one of a kind, an inspiration to all who seek to become police officers..Enjoy your retirment. Wayne McKay Retired RCMP Member

  • Janet Fennelly Symes
    April 22, 2012 - 23:25

    Congratulations Mr. O'Keefe on your retirement ,you were a great teacher and I'm sure a great RCMP officer . Enjoy your retirement

  • Rhonda O'Keefe Arsenault
    April 22, 2012 - 21:47

    We are very proud of you Danny and all that you have accomplished . You are an inspiration to many people . Wishing you every happiness as you retire from another successful career .

  • Joseph McGrath
    April 22, 2012 - 18:51

    Congratulations to RCMP OFFICER O"Keefe on a fine career of service in NL.As I read the story I can see that he always set his life goals and then went out to acccomplish them.His family deserves a great amount of cerdit as well for the support they gave to him.The news item once again shows us that their are many good people who do great good in the Province and are yet seldom if ever heard about.I never met you officier but congratulations and happy retirement.

  • Sara
    April 22, 2012 - 15:57

    Excellent Article!

  • chris maher
    April 22, 2012 - 13:11

    congrats Danny, he was a great teacher , i had him at Baltimore back in the early 90's . Congrats again !!

    • sherry power
      April 22, 2012 - 17:36

      I want to wish Const O""keef the best of luck in his retirement..I dont know him personally but i meet him a few times ..He is a very nice man and well respected..and i know he respects others also.Good Luck once again

    • Dispatch
      April 22, 2012 - 19:57

      Danny is a wonderful fellow, and an asset to the RCMP. Danny - best wishes as you travel on, and don't forget to keep in touch bud. You will definitely be missed, but never forgotten.