Unmoving in the hot sun, they saluted as Cpl. Trevor O’Keefe’s funeral procession passed them, headed towards the cemetery.
In front in a black vehicle were the funeral directors with the urn carrying the RCMP officer’s remains. Next was the car carrying O’Keefe’s parents.
As they passed, his father Pierre (Perry) gave the saluting officers the thumbs up and a strained smile.
Earlier, during the funeral service, Perry told the congregation he had a message he wanted to get out.
“If you or someone you know is suffering emotional distress of any sort, tell someone. Don’t bottle it up.”
O’Keefe, a 17-year veteran of the RCMP, died by suicide at home in Paradise Monday afternoon, after a battle with what his family says was post-traumatic stress disorder. He would have turned 48 next week.
The Bay Bulls church was filled to capacity for his funeral service, the congregation overflowing onto the lawn. Inside, Fr. Pat Kennedy performed the service. Chris Andrews of Shanneyganock, O’Keefe’s friend for the past 25 years, sang a haunting a cappella version of Irish traditional song, “The Parting Glass."
At one point, two of O’Keefe’s senior officers walked down the honour guard line, shaking officers’ hands and checking in with them to make sure they were feeling OK.
Perry, with a sense of humour like that of his son, told of how O’Keefe hadn’t quite excelled at school like his sister Tracy, and flunked out of MUN twice before earning his commerce degree.
“His problem was calculus,” Perry said. “I wouldn't know what calculus was if it hit me in the face, but it cost me a fortune in tutorials.”
The words spoken about O’Keefe during the service were the same that have been used since he passed: kind, exceptionally generous, and a great guy. He was a do-anything-for-you type. A prankster. Always smiling, at least on the outside.
O’Keefe worked as a civilian with the RCMP before joining the force, stationed in Clarenville and Bell Island before St. John’s. He had been serving as the force’s media relation’s officer in this province for about 18 months at the time of his death.
O’Keefe witnessed his share of tragedy over the years. In 2008, he was the lead investigator in the case of a Bell Island house fire in which three children perished. He was also one of the first officers on the scene after the fatal police shooting of Donald Dunphy in 2015, and was questioned extensively about his actions during the public inquiry into Dunphy’s death earlier this year.
“One thing life does is wear us down,” Kennedy said. “The giving and doing and taking and caring takes its toll.”
Kennedy told a story of O’Keefe responding to a car accident in which a dog was injured alongside its owners. After the humans were taken care of, O’Keefe made a stretcher for the dog from items in his car and brought it to a vet.
“Today we are heartbroken, but Trevor has left us a legacy that will live on forever,” O’Keefe’s mother Biddy said. “He was a tremendously kind man, generous to a fault. His love for his family went beyond bounds. He had respect and pride for the red serge and the boots that he would shine until they were glistening.”
Just before the “Last Post” was trumpeted, RCMP Sgt. Dion Foote addressed O’Keefe’s parents during the service, thanking them for allowing his colleagues to participate in it.
“Trevor wasn’t just a colleague or friend,” he said. “He was a brother.”
In addition to his parents and sister, O’Keefe leaves behind a son, an adopted daughter and a fiancée as well as other family members.
After the service, he was laid to rest at the Tors Cove Roman Catholic Cemetery.