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Obituary: William John O'Keefe

Obituary: William John O'Keefe
William John O'Keefe, died Thursday, Jan. 9, at the Veterans Home in Bristol. The elder son of Bernard and Dorothy O'Keefe, William is predeceased by his father Bernard and his younger brother Steven O'Keefe. He is survived by his wife Dawn, his mother Dorothy, his sisters Maureen, Janice, Elaine, Judy and Peggy, his son Dennis and daughter-in-law Michelle, nephews Sean, Bryan, Gabriel, Peter, Jason, Scott, Michael, a niece Jillian, and eight grand-nephews and nieces.

Known to his family and friends as Billy or "Wild Bill," William was an introspective and quiet person with a complex nature, devilish ways and a wry sense of humor. He lived life with a vengeance and cheated death many times, surviving numerous serious injuries from his risky escapades. As a soldier in the Army during the height of the Vietnam War, he served in the 101st Airborne Division infantry and survived two tours of duty, noted for his skill at walking point into dangerous terrain. Like many Vietnam veterans, the war defined Billy's life experience for years to come. He always remained loyal to those with whom he had served, and he was particularly moved by the experience of visiting the national Vietnam War Memorial with a fellow veteran later in life to heal an old wound. At the memorial he took a rubbing of the name of the young soldier who died while taking Billy's place walking point when Billy had to leave his post due to malaria. 

As a boy his favorite pastimes were dangling from the highest limbs of trees and building contraptions with junk parts for his daring stunts. As an adult, he continued to follow his inventive inclinations though he shifted his attention to fixing up an array of used trucks and cars.

Billy was a woodsman at heart and loved nothing better than to go hunting or fishing and muse in nature. Music was his other passion. He was an avid and loyal fan of the Doors and other rock bands of the 60s, and he enjoyed listening to his extensive CD collection for hours on end. It was rare to find Billy awake without music playing. It soothed his soul.

Other than his military duty, Billy worked mostly in the construction industry. He was actively involved in the VFW of Blackstone, Massachusetts, and he served as a chaplain for a time, attending the funerals of other veterans. 

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Veteran's Home at 480 Metacom Ave., Bristol, Rhode Island 02809.

The committal took place on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at 2 p.m. in the St. Jean the Baptist Cemetery located at 310 Wrentham Rd., Bellingham, Massachusetts. Arrangements were entrusted to THE CRANSTON-MURPHY FUNERAL HOME of WICKFORD. For online messages of condolence, kindly visit  www.CranstonMurphy.com.

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