Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Arthur Thomas Keefe, late of New London, Connecticut, distinguished member of this bar, was born in New London on September 22, 1888, the son of Jennie Cunningham Brennan and Arthur Keefe. Having graduated from the Hopkins Grammar School at New Haven in 1906, he entered Yale College in that year and received the bachelor of arts degree in 1910. The following year he entered Yale Law School and graduated from it in 1913. Immediately following his graduation he began the practice of law in New London in association with the late John C. Geary and, after a few years of this association, became a member of the firm of Geary, Davis and Keefe. At his death on May 16, 1943, he was the only surviving member of this firm. This, in brief, is the outline of his life as it might be sketched by those who did not know him intimately. It would, however, be a very inadequate summation, for here was a man possessing clearly defined qualities distinguishing him as a person apart.
He was a man of strong loyalties, so strong that he was devoted to them even when his zeal seemed unreasonable. Those who understood him, however, knew that once he espoused a matter there was no room left for criticism of it on his part. This loyalty was a tool, the evidence of which marked everything to which he gave his interest.
Dominating all, there was his loyalty to his religion. This was very strong within him. It was not a matter of ceremonials. He was intensely interested in it from a scholastic standpoint and from the standpoint of its application as a living organism. This interest on his part was singularly crowned with satisfaction in that he was given the opportunity to participate in the erection, in New Haven, of St. Thomas More House, a chapel and Catholic center at Yale University. This building was the life labor of love of the late Reverend T. Lawrason Riggs, chaplin at Yale University, and all those who shared in it had an opportunity to create a beautiful example of church architecture and to sense the importance of it as an influence for positive religion in a university giving to all the men within its membership opportunities to mold their lives along avenues of their choosing.
Yale University lost in his death one who truly loved it and its associations. This made his trusteeship of St. Thomas More House during its erection and afterwards in its operation an even greater source of satisfaction to him. He was especially proud of the fact that each of his three sons chose Yale for their Alma Mater.
The bar of the state of Connecticut has had few men in its membership who had a greater pride in the practice of law and in the functioning of its courts. From the very beginning of his practice he determined to devote the major part of his time to the trial of cases. In this field he was very successful . At the time of his death he was one of the leading trial lawyers of this state. His devotion to the interests of his clients was complete even to the degree which his opponents sometimes felt was too unyielding. This persistence, however , was not born from obstinacy or a careless scholarship but represented the intensity with which he became the true advocate in the causes that he accepted. He believed intensely that lawyers had a unique opportunity for public service through the daily practice of their profession. He was an indefatigable worker. His personality evidenced confidence, courage, energy, forthrightness, and yet he was a wise, discreet advisor, a generous, sensitive, thoughtful friend. He worked enthusiastically for the State Bar and American Bar Associations. For many years before his death he was a member of the house of delegates of the State Bar Association and served on its procedure committee. He participated in the work of the Civil Liberties Union because he sensed the importance of the protection of the individual's rights, especially when unpopularity at the moment might, to the unthoughtful, emphasize the will of the majority to the detriment of that priceless essential, freedom of the individual.
Even this brief picture of the man, inadequate as it must necessarily be, would not be complete if it did not mention his active civic interest, his contribution to boyhood activities, especially his period of service as a member and chairman of the board of education of New London, and his many years as president of the Pequot Council, Boy Scouts of America. Although he never sought political office nor to become a part of any local political organization, he was a member of the Republican Party. This he supported most vigorously. While he sympathized with the values and the need of social change, he bitterly resented and regretted developments since the depression which he thought were deceptive and not based on sound economics.
This devotion to his religion, to his profession, and to his civic duties was exemplified in and made complete by his devotion to his family. In spite of his very active practice and the necessary demands upon his time, nothing was allowed to take precedence over this. Here the inadequacy of words, even of his friends, is most impelling. One can only say that like so many of the other phases of his life, his conduct was built not upon the ever-changing influence of his environment but upon a reasoned, intelligent conclusion of the relative importance of things. In this he was blessed in his marriage, on November 11, 1915, to Mabel Virginia Foran, of New London, and in his three sons.
Death came upon him suddenly, treacherously. It did not find him unprepared. He was only fifty-four years old but he had completed a life which those who knew him and appreciated him will deeply treasure.
Surviving are his wife, Mabel Foran Keefe, and his three sons, Lieutenant Donald Foran Keefe, U.S.N.; Captain Roger Manton Keefe, U.S.A. and Arthur Thomas Keefe, U.S.A., a medical student at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York City, all justifying their inheritance by their service to their country in its armed forces.