Kent and Northeast Ohio area community members mourn the loss of Lloyd Frost O’Keefe, a champion for peace and social justice who was loved by family and friends for his genuineness, grace, caring, courage and leadership. His life was spent as a loving husband and family member and a servant leader of the highest calling.
O’Keefe died August 22, 2020, at Kent Healthcare Center, Kent, Ohio, with his wife, Roberta, by his side after a 21-year struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Roberta felt blessed to be with him despite the pandemic. Lloyd and Roberta Ann Bode of Cuyahoga Falls were married on Dec. 27, 1966, in Alexandria, Virginia. They met while undergrads at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio.
Lloyd was born in Columbus, Ohio, July 12, 1939, to Agnes Frost O’Keefe and Thomas G. O’Keefe. Lloyd enlisted in the Ohio National Guard in 1957 and was honorably discharged in 1965. While still in the National Guard, he was graduated from Heidelberg with a BA and received a teaching certificate.
From 1962 to 1964, Lloyd taught Social Studies at Tiffin Columbian High School in Tiffin. Lloyd entered Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, in the fall of 1964, graduating in 1967 with a Master of Divinity. He was ordained a deacon in June, 1967, and then ordained a priest on December 1, 1967. He served Episcopal churches in Toledo, Warren and then Christ Church Episcopal in Kent. During his ministry, Lloyd’s first priority was being a pastor to the members of his congregation.
He was passionate about social justice issues including hunger and racism and they would be focal points throughout the rest of his ministry. He worked part-time at Kent Social Services, establishing a food pantry and a homeless shelter by involving many of the local churches for support. He was director of The Akron Area Association of Churches, the staff person for hunger ministries with the Eastminster Presbytery, executive director of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio Community Services Foundation and finally assistant to the Bishop for Peace and Justice Ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio.
Lloyd involved himself and his ministry in other dimensions of the Kent community. He served as chaplain of the Kent Police Department for 18 years and was honored by the city for his service. Lloyd also served on the Portage County United Way Board of Directors and was a founder of the Kent State University Orchestra Society. In 2019, Maryalice and Gordon Seaholts established a music scholarship in Lloyd’s name.
Lloyd and Roberta made lasting, loyal friends wherever they were involved. They were beloved by fellow church members, at Christ Church Episcopal, and later at Grace Episcopal Church in Ravenna where they were parishioners. They were one of the first couples to have a joint membership in the League of Women Voters of Kent.
Lloyd taught everyone he came in contact with about how to handle a disease like Parkinson’s. Exercise was important. He and his wife learned about an exercise group at KSU where individuals with Parkinson’s could safely work out with the help of KSU students. Roberta could work out as well. They made lasting friendships with students, faculty and participants.
Lloyd spent the last 5 years at Kent Healthcare Center. Roberta was able to be with him every day to help care for him until the pandemic. Then she would visit him every day at his window.
Friends and family continued to visit Lloyd, and even though he often had trouble getting words out everyone said they always came away with some new insight. Lloyd had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to tease. He was a favorite of the aides and nurses who took care of him. Roberta cherishes the relationships she and Lloyd made with the healthcare workers that looked after Lloyd and supported them both.
One of the days after his wife was no longer able to go into the facility to be with Lloyd, one of the staff members arranged the use of an IPad so that Roberta and Lloyd could FaceTime. Lloyd was having a very hard time talking or opening his eyes. Then when Roberta said, “I love you,” he opened his eyes and with his famous twinkle in his eyes said very clearly, “It’s about time.”
One of the blessings of being ill for so long was that individuals would tell Lloyd how he had influenced them and how grateful they were for having him in their lives. Roberta was privileged to hear some of these conversations. We all need to remember to tell our loved ones and friends how important they are to us and why we love them!
Lloyd was predeceased by his mother and father, his brothers Dennis and Terry, his sister’s partner Russ Hazzard and a nephew Rick Bode. He is survived by his sister Carolyn Bebee; sisters- and brothers-in-law; many nieces and nephews; and a great-nephew who is Lloyd’s namesake.
Cremation has taken place. A brief service and burial of Lloyd’s ashes is planned for the Memorial Garden at Grace Church. The service will be recorded and will be available for viewing on the Bissler Funeral Home website bisslerandsons.com at a later date.
For those who wish, memorial donations may be made to Grace Episcopal Church, 250 W. Cedar Ave., Ravenna, Ohio 44266. Donations may also be made in Lloyd’s memory to the KSU Foundation/Orchestra Society for the Rev. Lloyd O’Keefe Scholarship fund, 210 Overlook Dr., Kent, Ohio 44240. Donations can be made online at ksuorchestrasociety.org. Also for donations: Kent Social Services, online at fcsserves.org/donate or through its parent agency, Family and Community Services, 705 Oakwood St., Suite 221, Ravenna, Ohio 44266.
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