Ohio Biographies

William O'Keefe

It has been within the compass of the ambition and powers of Mr. O'Keefe to gain secure status as one of the representative business men of his native City of Ironton, the metropolis and county seat of Lawrence County, and he is a scion of a family whose name has been worthily identified with the history of the Hanging Rock Iron Region for more than sixty years. He was formerly associated with his brother James in the undertaking business that is now conducted successfully under his personal direction, the widow of his brother still retaining an interest in the business and her son Charles being the valued assistant to his uncle, whose name initiates this paragraph. With the best of modern facilities and equipment, the establishment of Mr. O'Keefe is one of the best in the City of Ironton in the affording of effective and seemly service in the directing of funerals with unfailing sympathy and kindly consideration.

Mr. O'Keefe was born in Ironton on the 21st of October, 1856, at which time this now thriving industrial city was a mere village. He is a son of John and Mary (O'Hare) O'Keefe, both natives of Ireland—the father having been born in County Cork and the mother in County Clare and botli having been reared in their native land, where their marriage was solemnized. John O'Keefe, born in the year 1805, was sixty-nine years of age at the time of his death, which occurred at his old homestead in Ironton, in 1874. His widow survived him by nearly fifteen years and was sixty-five years of age at the time when she was summoned to the life eternal, in 1888, her birth having occurred in 1823. Concerning the children of this union the following brief record is consistently entered: Catherine is the widow of Daniel Boyce and maintains her home in Ironton; James, who died in the year 1902, as senior member of the firm of O'Keefe & Hanichen, was one of the founders of the substantial undertaking business now conducted by his brother William, the enterprise dating its inception back to the year 1878 and being thus one of the pioneer business concerns of the city; Miss Margaret still resides in Ironton, and presides over the old family homestead, with her brother William, of this review, who likewise has remained unwed; Thomas is a resident of Newport, Kentucky; Susan died as a child. John O 'Keefe, the honored father, immigrated to the United States in 1816 and after remaining for a time in the Dominion of Canada he removed to Pennsylvania, from which state he came to Lawrence County, Ohio, in 1852, here to pass the residue of his life, which was one of unostentatious worth and consecutive industry. He was well known and held in high esteem in Lawrence County and served many years as street commissioner of Ironton. He was a democrat in his political proclivities and both he and his wife were zealous communicants of the Catholic Church, in which they early became members of the Ironton parish of St. Lawrence.

William O'Keefe continued to attend the schools of Lawrence County, parochial and public, until he had attained to the age of seventeen years, his educational discipline having been received principally in Ironton, though he attended school for a time at Kelley's Mills, where the family resided for a comparatively brief period. At the age noted he obtained employment in the Star Mill, in Ironton, and in this manufactory of nails and other iron and steel products he served in the department devoted to the blueing of nails. After being identified with this line of enterprise for a period of five years Mr. O 'Keefe became an assistant in the undertaking establishment of O'Keefe & Hanichen, and after the death of Mr. Hanichen, in 1887, he purchased the latter's interest from the widow and became his brother's partner in the business, this mutually grateful alliance continuing until the death of James O'Keefe, in 1902, since which time the enterprise has been continued by the latter's widow and brother, William having the direct management of the business with which he has been long identified and in connection with which he has become one of the substantial and influential business men of his native city.

Essentially progressive and loyal as a citizen, Mr. O'Keefe has had no predeliction for the honors or emoluments of public office and in politics he maintains an independent attitude, his support being given to the men and measures meeting the approval of his judgment. He is an earnest communicant of the Catholic Church, as a member of St. Lawrence Church, and he is a member of the board of trustees of Sacred Heart Cemetery. Mr. O'Keefe is the owner of valuable residence property in Ironton, including the old homestead of his parents, on Lawrence Street. He is affiliated with the Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. His life has been guided by earnest principles and worthy ideals, so that he well merits the high esteem that is accorded to him in the county that has always represented his home.


From "A Standing History of the Hanging Rock Iron Region of Ohio" by Eugene B. Willard, Daniel W. Williams, George O. Newman and Charles B. Taylor.  Published by Lewis Publishing Company, 1916