Bill Text: MS HC54 | 2017 | Regular Session | Enrolled

Bill Title: Jerry O'Keefe; commend his life and service upon his passing.

Spectrum: Moderate Partisan Bill (Republican 5-1)

Status: (Passed) 2017-02-23 - Enrolled Bill Signed [HC54 Detail]

Download: Mississippi-2017-HC54-Enrolled.html


2017 Regular Session

To: Rules

By: Representatives Patterson, DeLano, Eure, Guice, Haney, Zuber

House Concurrent Resolution 54

(As Adopted by House and Senate)


     WHEREAS, it is written in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that "To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the Heaven," and as such, on August 23, 2016, the immaculate author and finisher of our soul's destiny summoned the mortal presence of dearly beloved, Congressional Gold Medal winner, philanthropist and former Biloxi mayor, Jeremiah Joseph "Jerry" O'Keefe, to eternal rest, rendering great sorrow and loss to his family and friends; and

     WHEREAS, the State of Mississippi and the City of Biloxi, Mississippi, lost a wonderful friend and community leader with the passing of Mr. O'Keefe, who was 93 years old at the time of his transition from earthly travailing to heavenly reward; and

     WHEREAS, Mr. O'Keefe accomplished many feats throughout his life, tackled many obstacles and exceeded expectations, but perhaps his most distinguished triumph was his bravery as an Ace Fighter Pilot in World War II; and 

     WHEREAS, when the hostile Axis Powers attacked his dear Lady Liberty and crippled the United States Navy's fleet of magnificent warships stationed in Pearl Harbor through a senseless, cowardly act, Mr. O'Keefe could no longer sit idly by as a fascist regime threatened to ruin the democratic world, so he altruistically enlisted with an elite fraternity of patriots in the United States Navy; and

     WHEREAS, after attending flight school, Mr. O'Keefe became a fighter pilot with the United States Marine Corps from 1943 until 1945, and flew a Corsair fighter plane and was a member of the Death Rattlers Fighter Squadron of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Division, one of the most decorated squadrons in World War II, and on two separate occasions, he guided his plane into oncoming Japanese suicide bombers, staring into the face of hostile enemy fire and not shying away, to ultimately destroy seven enemy planes; and

     WHEREAS, during World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, only 1,447 Americans became Ace Fighter Pilots for shooting down five or more enemy planes in aerial combat, and Mr. O'Keefe became one of those numbers during his first combat fight over Okinawa, and because of his bravery, he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Gold Star and the Congressional Gold Medal for American Flying Aces, the highest honor bestowed by Congress; and

     WHEREAS, upon his honorable return to his homeland, Mr. O'Keefe focused his attention on his education and professional life, graduating from Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and joining his father at O'Keefe Funeral Home in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he utilized his collegiate training to expand the business into a massive funeral home enterprise on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; and

     WHEREAS, in 1958, he purchased Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Service, forming Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Home, and Mr. O'Keefe and his wife also founded Gulf National Life Insurance Company, which has grown into the state's largest provider of life and burial insurance policies through 200 affiliated funeral homes; and

     WHEREAS, Mr. O'Keefe entered Mississippi's political arena with his election to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1960, where he served one term, and 10 years later, he focused on the local elections by becoming Biloxi's mayor and serving in that capacity for eight years, during which time he shaped the city's current cultural and physical landscape, transforming Vieux Marche in downtown Biloxi into a pedestrian mall, where retail has since been supplanted by offices, nightclubs and other businesses and leading the annexation that expanded Biloxi northwestward and opened Biloxi's harbor to commercial shrimping; and

     WHEREAS, when his time in office concluded, Mr. O'Keefe and his wife transitioned their time and energy to certain philanthropic causes, including numerous charities and the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, which was named in his honor, and to help the community with its needs, they established The O'Keefe Foundation with an endowment of $10,000,000.00; and

     WHEREAS, no activity, business or election surpassed Jerry O'Keefe's love for his family, and he enjoyed spending time with them on relaxing fishing trips in the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, gathering together for shrimp, crab or crawfish boils in the backyard, enjoying an exquisite Fourth of July fireworks display from their front yard, and whipping up masterful fried chicken dinners on Sundays; and

     WHEREAS, the memory of Mr. O'Keefe, a man held in the highest regard by friends and family as an inspiring and precious gift from God, will continue to refresh the hearts and memories of his beloved survivors:  his loving wife, Martha Peterson O'Keefe; her son, Steve Peterson; children, Maureen O'Keefe Ward, Cecilia O'Keefe Neustrom, Kathryn O'Keefe Kaye, Virginia O'Keefe, Susan O'Keefe Snyder, John M. O'Keefe, Mary O'Keefe Snell, Jeffrey H. O'Keefe, Justin B. O'Keefe, Mercedes O'Keefe Huval and Joseph S. O'Keefe; daughters-in-law, Annette L. O'Keefe and Janie B. O'Keefe; grandchildren, Allie, Kyle, Sam, Will, Tess, Shannon, Jeremiah, Erin, Kimberly, Vanessa, Emily, Ben, Tom, Katelyn, Joshua, Clinton, Kellie, Courtney, Chris, Kevin, Caleb, Rose, Cecilia, Susannah, John, Jeanne, Bridgette, Robert, Jeffrey, Jacob, Jordan, Justice, Jules, Miles, Ellen, David, Mary Kathryn, Jody and Keely; 33 great-grandchildren; and a host of other nieces, nephews and friends; and

     WHEREAS, it is the policy of this Legislature to recognize and honor the lives of fine Mississippians, especially those such as Jeremiah Joseph "Jerry" O'Keefe, III, a gracious man who always put others before himself, loved his family and friends unconditionally, and strived daily to promote and improve this great Magnolia State, which brings it the utmost glory and honor:

     NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, THE SENATE CONCURRING THEREIN, That we do hereby mourn the loss and salute the heroic service of World War II Ace Fighter Pilot and former Biloxi mayor, businessman and State Representative Jeremiah Joseph "Jerry" O'Keefe, III, and extend deepest sympathy to the family of the Mississippi civic leader, patriot and veteran upon the occasion of his passing.

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be furnished to the family of Jeremiah Joseph "Jerry" O'Keefe, III, the Biloxi City Council, and to the members of the Capitol Press Corps.