Joseph “Joe” H. Keeley

PORTLAND – Joseph “Joe” H. Keeley, 97, died on June 18, 2020, following a brief illness. He was born in Portland to Joseph and Catherine “Katie” (Coppinger) Keeley, two Irish immigrants who had met and married in this country. His parents settled in the North Deering neighborhood of Portland where they raised eight children. Their home was a welcoming spot for fellow immigrants and regular house parties featured dancing and the Keeley children on musical instruments. Joe was a graduate of Deering High School. He enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the Brunswick Naval Air Base as an air traffic controller. While there, he met his wife of 73 years, fellow controller Marjorie “Marge” McLauglin. That early practice of shared labor later served them as they tackled projects through life. Following the end of the War, they married and he built their first home, a small house next to the property where he grew up. His brother John “Jack” also built a house next door and they were able to raise their families in close proximity. Eventually, Joe built a house on land adjoining his prior homes and completed the structure on his own, with the help of family members and a few skilled tradesmen. Over the course of his lifetime, he never moved very far from where he started but he was very content to be near his parents and his brother and nearby siblings. After a brief time in construction, he returned to air traffic control, initially commuting to Logan Airport while he waited for the construction of the control tower at what is now Portland International Jetport. He was in the first group of controllers to staff that tower during an era when planes were guided using only radio and visual recognition. He sometimes had to switch on the runway lights for nighttime arrivals. The original tower was eventually replaced by a modern facility and by the time he retired in 1978 as Assistant Chief, the job had shifted to computerized tracking and complex dimensional modeling. His calm demeanor was well suited to the stressful environment. Following retirement, he joined his nephew’s construction company for several gratifying years. He was happy to work alongside his son during that time. Throughout his life, he enjoyed working with his hands, making wooden gifts for family or repairing machines of any size or complexity. After helping a friend build a simple camp on Watchic Lake in Standish, he purchased the camp from him and began a 62 year summer residency there. The lake months were full of visits from family and the screen door was constantly banging with children running in and out. A perfect summer day ended with a slow, sunset boat tour around the shoreline with his wife. He had a warm, gentle sense of humor and delighted in teaching his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren nonsensical songs. Joe and his wife Marge had six children. Their first child, Joseph, died in infancy. Surviving are Jane Dascanio of Portland, Virginia Bergson of Georgetown, Mass., Loretta Tracy of Elk Grove, Calif., Irene Keeley of Hingham Mass. and Patrick Keeley of Portland. He was a supportive father-in-law to their spouses, Peter Dascanio, Robert Bergson, Brent Tracy, Charles Chalko and Catherine Keeley. Grandchildren are Anthony Dascanio, Maura Eaves, Meghan Ellsworth, Emily Garrett, Brendan Bergson and Margaret Bergson. His granddaughter Lillian Chalko predeceased him. Great-grandchildren are Hannah and Nichole Dascanio, Bryan Eaves, Charlotte Ellsworth, Grace Bergson and Claire Garrett. He was predeceased by his siblings, Kathleen Neefus, Mary LeTourneau, Barbara Hoy, Margaret Schwendeman and James, John and Charles Keeley. He is survived by his sisters-in-law, Corinne Keeley, Regina Marsh and Jean McLaughlin and many nieces and nephews. Whether you knew him as Joe, Dad, Papa or Uncle Joe, he was always smiling, always happy to see you and always ready to lend a hand. Recently, when playing a game that involved drawing a card and answering questions, he drew the card that asked, “what is your greatest accomplishment?” He answered, “my family”. He was a lifelong communicant of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. A Mass of Christian Burial and interment will be private. Family and friends are invited to attend a time of visitation on Tuesday, June 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Jones, Rich and Barnes Funeral Home, 199 Woodford St. Portland.To honor his memory,his family asks that you reach out to someone inyour family and sharea happy memory.

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