Christopher J. Keefe, a nightlife personality and an activist on behalf of various community causes during the decade and a half he called St. Thomas home, died Dec. 31 in Palm Springs, Calif., where he had lived for three years.
His sister, Marta Keefe Tillman, said there were no immediate plans for a memorial service on St. Thomas, but one could be arranged later.
A native of Albany, N.Y., Chris Keefe found his first job on St. Thomas in the early 1980s working as a waiter at Patricia LaCorte's old Little Leaf restaurant at the Watergate complex. He soon won a following as a deejay, at the Safari Lounge, Lombardo's and the Lemon Grass Café, night spots all gone now from the downtown Charlotte Amalie scene.
His day jobs included serving as executive director of the old St. Thomas School of Dance, being a partner in the Upper Crust Bakery and Café, and working in the law offices of Bornn Bornn Handy and Rashid.
Keefe was actively involved in SHIINE, a local organization providing support to persons with HIV/AIDS and their families, and the Lois Lanes Bowling Team, a St. Thomas group that didn't bowl but made its mark putting up Christmas decorations on Main Street for several years and raising funds for downtown beautification and for Partners for Health.
"Chris worked with artist/hair stylist Bruno Camargo in the Lois Lanes fund-raising projects Bruno organized," longtime friend Caroline Reed recalled. Money raised in Bingo at the Safari went for beautification plantings. The group held a couple of flea markets to raise funds for Partners for Health that went for sheets and towels for St. Thomas Hospital. "The first one raised about $17,000," Reed said.
Keefe also was a prime player in the Queen Bree female impersonator revues organized on St. Thomas by Brian Raynowska and an enthusiastic participant in the annual Easter bonnet contests at the old Blackbeard's Castle Hotel. Among his favorite leisure activities were sailing and free-diving off boats to explore the reef life below the water's surface.
He moved briefly to St. Croix, then returned to St. Thomas. In 1996, he went back to Albany to help care for his father shortly after his mother's death, and the following year he moved to Palm Springs.
Reed, who advised a number of friends via e-mail of Keefe's death, said, "So many people have responded saying, When I think of Chris, I have to smile,' and that's true. He made us smile."
Private funeral services were planned in Massachusetts, with Keefe's body to be cremated. He is survived by his father, John Keefe, of Coco Beach, Fla.; and his sister, Marta, and nephews Andrew, Peter and Brett Tillman, all of Sharon, Mass.
In Keefe's memory, contributions may be made to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney St., Boston, MA 02115.