Theresa O'Keefe

February 25, 1935 - March 8, 2017
Portage, MI



Monday, March 13, 2017
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Life Story Funeral Homes - Rupert, Durham, Marshall & Gren
Portage Location
5975 Lovers Lane
Portage, MI 49002
(269) 344-5600
Driving Directions


Tuesday, March 14, 2017
9:30 AM EDT
St. Joseph Catholic Church
936 Lake Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
(269) 343-6256
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

VanderSalm's Flipse
1120 S. Burdick
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
(800) 232-7134
Driving Directions
Web Site

Polderman's Florist & Garden Center
8710 Portage Road
Portage, MI 49002
(269) 327-3656
Driving Directions

Schafer's Flowers Inc.
3274 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(800) 760-7050
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


One who traveled miles and miles on this Earth, Theresa O’Keefe never had a difficult time finding her true home. This place existed in her heart, and she brought it with her to share with everyone she knew - wherever she went. A loving wife, a caring mother, and a cherished grandmother and friend, Theresa’s life will live in the hearts of her family and friends.

The 1930’s saw its share of difficulties with the Great Depression, but it was also a time of optimism and enthusiasm. The family game of Monopoly created in-home bankers and the ownership of Park Place without leaving the dining room chair. And when kids tired of the four hour game, they were likely to boogie down with the latest dance: the “Swing” created by Benny Goodman! The sweet Shirley Temple was a top box office attraction while news of Amelia Earhart spread for flying solo across the Pacific Ocean.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the United States Social Security Act, and the The Boulder Hoover Dam’s last bit of concrete was poured. The country knew there was no limit to the capabilities of the land if there was determination. This same sort of determination could be found in the Bronx, New York on February 25th, 1935. On this special day, Stanley John and Martha (Werner) Peters became parents for the first time with the birth of their precious daughter, Theresa. She was the first of two more girls; Jeannine and Rita followed soon after to make the family complete.

Theresa lived in the Bronx for the majority of her childhood years but then moved to Greenville, New York in her teens. The move was not completely intentional, as they went on summer vacation and never went back to the Bronx! The family’s house was spartan to say the least: no electricity, no plumbing and a wood stove. Needless to say, as a teenager, Theresa hated it! She greatly missed seeing her cousins who were nearby in the Bronx, but this special bond lasted a lifetime. Together, they faced some difficult times during wartime and endured rationing of supplies, but with good company amongst one another - they always found a way to make do.

She found great pleasure in attending catholic school, but even this did not keep her out of trouble all the time. It is almost hard to believe, but Theresa found herself face to face with the FBI! In all her artistic glory, she found unique beauty in the swastika - so much so that she decidedly painted one on a wall for all to see.

Eventually, she attended Greenville High School in Greenville, New York. It was here that she met a boy named John J. O’Keefe who annoyed her with talk of politics and other bland topics. He also happened to be four years older than Theresa, so neither of them thought much of the other. As time passed and high school graduation came and went, Theresa and her sisters would go to dance halls - it was here that she re-met John. This time, however, he did not annoy or bore her in the slightest. This time the realization came easily, she had met the love of her life!

The two dated but often missed one another greatly because John joined the Air Force during the Korean War and was stationed in Long Island. Every chance he was given, Greenville was his choice of destination to be with his girl, Theresa. This was a common trip for him and his buddy, Norman Burland, who later ended up marrying Theresa’s sister, Jeannine. Finally, John and Theresa were married on February 12, 1955 at St. John’s Catholic Church in Greenville, New York. The newlyweds swiftly moved to New York City where John was stationed, but they did not stay there for long.

In fact, they were on the move quite often, but that never once stopped Theresa from making a house a home. John was a communications specialist, and this position required moving all over the world. This was an exciting opportunity, as it provided the ability to see so many memorable places: Germany, Holland, Rome, Pompeii, the Vatican and Austria just to name a few. Traveling did not stop the happy couple from becoming parents to four children: John, Linda, Larry, and Mike. Thankfully, Theresa was a natural homemaker keeping organization and as much peace as can be had with a full family of six traveling the world. She was in charge of gathering the children and meeting John at his next stationed assignment. One of her favorite spots amongst all of them was Naples, Italy - she loved Italy! Never idle, the family at one point ended up in Australia where Theresa tolerated her husband bringing home a baby kangaroo!

While Theresa and John with their children traveled the world, Norm and Jeannine were settling into the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. One by one, more family members moved to the city, including Theresa’s parents. Before long, the O’Keefe’s purchased a home in Kalamazoo as well. They would rent it out when they were living elsewhere with the comfort of knowing that they always had a permanent home in Kalamazoo. No matter where the family traveled far from Kalamazoo, Theresa always made sure that the family felt they were at home. Her constant desire was to enrich her children’s lives with the culture and environment instead of making all the travel an inconvenience. She was definitely successful in her attempts, for she was inherently a family-oriented person who made a home with merely her love and presence. She loved her family so much that she often dreamed about owning a big apartment house where she could provide a space for all her children and their families to live. Her kids were always her kids, no matter how old they got. Even so, she looked out for other children as well - often helping at boy scouts and attending various sporting events (especially Larry and Mike’s football games!).

As years passed, Theresa and John settled into a quieter life. One in which she found great joy in knitting, sewing, quilting and cooking. Their precious grandchildren and great grandchildren were the best part of this later life. One by one they were celebrated with great joy: Stephanie, Erin, Monica, Kevin, Brian, Maiya, Jacqueline, Lauren, Sarah, Ryan, Mike Jr., Elizabeth, David, Andrew, Evan, and Tricia were the grandchildren. And then came even more joy, the great grandchildren: Amanda, Becca, Michaela, Lola, Easton, and Adeline. Her family was truly the light of her life.

Her home was a place for all of the important holiday gatherings; Christmas and Easter were the two most memorable. It was not unusual for Theresa to serve her favorite pineapple square treat or her savory ravioli - and we cannot forget the amazing whoopee pies or whiskey balls loved by so many! Most importantly though, home was very important to her, and making a place a home was an essential way of life for Theresa.

Theresa leaves behind a great legacy to her family. She had the ability to make the best of every situation no matter where it landed her. She thoroughly enjoyed her life and its travels, but she never wandered far from the most important place - her home. Her home was truly where her heart was, and her family is what always kept her there. Theresa will be dearly missed, and the memories we shared with her will never be forgotten.

Theresa O’Keefe, age 82, of Portage passed away on March 8, 2017 in the comfort of her home. Visit with her family and friends and view her life story film on Monday, March 13 from 4-7pm at the Life Story Funeral Home, Portage; 5975 Lovers Lane (344-5600). A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Tuesday, March 14 at 9:30am at St. Joseph Catholic Church (936 Lake St, Kalamazoo). Left to cherish her memory are her children: John (Donna), Linda (Steve) Hoard; Larry (Yvonne), and Mike (Virginia); grandchildren: Stephanie (Ben), Erin, Monica, Kevin (Lindsey), Brian (Susan), Maiya, Jacqueline, Lauren (Brian), Sarah, Ryan, Mike Jr. (Sara) Elizabeth, David, Andrew, Evan, Tricia (Jeff), and Shannon (Greg); great-grandchildren: Amanda, Becca (Adam), Michaela, Lola, Easton, and Adeline; sister Rita (Dick) Chobey; as well as several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by the love of her life, husband John J. O’Keefe; her parents; grandson Robert; and her sister Jeannine.