Dennis M. Keefe, 66, of Grand Island, a retired senior auto claims adjuster who also worked for many years as a journalist, actor and voice-over artist, died May 17, 2019, at Hospice Buffalo in Cheektowaga after a brief illness.
He was born in Buffalo on Oct. 5, 1952, the son of the late William V. and Edna N. Sorendo Keefe. In 1984, he married Karen Carr Keefe. They met in 1979 while both worked at the former WEBR-AM, Newsradio 970. He is the father of Nathan (Sarah) Keefe and grandfather of Lennox Keefe.
“He called himself a ‘hopeless golfer and a proud grandpa,’” his wife said.
Keefe worked with Geico for 15 years, retiring in March of this year. His insurance career started in sales, and his next 12 years were in auto damage claims. He advanced to a senior adjuster position, mentoring new adjusters and handling various auto claims. He traveled the country on special assignment in “CAT duty” – catastrophic situations – including working Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the New York City area in 2012.
His supervisor, Michael Donahue, said Keefe was known best for his ability to handle problems. “He always volunteered to help when needed. His customer service was outstanding and his full-bodied voice was known throughout the company,” Donohue said. “Although Dennis had retired from Geico, he is missed by his fellow adjusters in the Buffalo area.”
A Buffalo native, Keefe graduated from Bishop Timon High School in 1970. He attended Siena College for two years, followed by two years at SUNY Buffalo State, where he graduated in 1974 with a bachelor’s in English.
It was while he was studying at Siena that he started his radio journalism career on the overnight shift as a news reporter.
After graduating from Buff State, Keefe worked as a line-haul coordinator for a trucking company, arranging schedules for the truckers, but he eventually found his way back into the field he loved, journalism, his wife said.
Keefe worked at WEBR-AM for more than 20 years. Budd Bailey, a co-worker of Keefe’s at the radio station, tweeted on May 18 that Keefe always held his own in a building full of interesting people.
“I can still hear his deep voice and quick laugh,” said Bailey, a retired Buffalo News reporter and editor and a current columnist for Buffalo Sports Page.
After WEBR, Keefe worked for about a year and a half as a City Hall reporter for the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal.
He then was a news anchor for several years at Oldies 104.1 WHTT-FM, where “he had the time of his life working on air with radio legend Danny Neaverth and his son, Dan Neaverth Jr.,” his wife said.
Keefe had an impressive acting career, performing in local theater productions and in a couple of full-length feature films.
He was an accomplished actor in professional and community theater in Western New York. He appeared in productions with the Subversive Theatre Collective; Buffalo United Artists; Buffalo Ensemble Theatre; Alleyway Theatre; Theatre of Youth; Ujima Theatre; and various other theater productions. He directed a play and acted in several productions for St. Stephen’s Parish Players, as well.
He last starred in “It Can’t Happen Here” in 2017 with Subversive Theatre.
“He got top billing in that, and it played to sold-out crowds,” his wife said.
He also had a significant role in the play “Jimmytown! The Rise and Fall of Jimmy Slattery” in the New Phoenix Theatre.
Keefe acted in two full-length movies: “Shadow Creature” and “Corporate Affairs.”
Kurt Schneiderman, founder and artistic director of Subversive Theatre, directed Keefe in many productions.
“I always had a wonderful time working with Dennis,” Schneiderman told the Buffalo News.
“I was always very impressed with his deep announcer voice. He was the sort of man who made everything feel more stately, more majestic. He added more gravitas with his intense voice and presence,” Schneiderman said.
Keefe was a parishioner and lector at St. Stephen’s R.C. Church on Grand Island. His wife recalls that he prayed before he did the reading, saying, “It’s not about me. It’s about the word of the Lord.” He was a past member of the Grand Island Knights of Columbus Mary Star of the Sea Council No. 4752.
In addition to his wife, son and grandson, Keefe is survived by two brothers, William G. and Thomas M. (Deborah); three sisters, Patricia A. and Mary M. of Buffalo; and Maureen T. (Mark Massa) Keefe of Indianapolis. His brother, Michael S. Keefe, predeceased him.
Keefe is also survived by brothers-in-law the Rev. Daniel P. Carr (Eileen Gill) of North Chili; Timothy S. (Laurie) Carr; and Michael D. (Christine) Carr, both of Grand Island; and sisters-in-law Mary Walker Carr (the late Gary Carr) of South Wales; and Enedelia Nelly Garza-Carr (the late Jeffrey Carr), of Tomball, Texas.
He is survived by nephews Erin F. Carr of Kaslo, British Columbia; Todd F. Carr of Arlington, Texas; Gil F. Carr (Caitlin Marine) of Anchorage, Alaska; Michael P. Carr of North Chili; Jared R. Carr, Forrest M. Carr and Hayden M. Carr, all of Grand Island; and Robert Keefe of Raleigh, North Carolina. His nephews, Leon D. Carr and Stephen J. Carr, preceded him in death.
Keefe is also survived by nieces Rebecca S. Carr of Ridgewood, New York, Chelsea L. Carr of Grand Island, Emily A. Carr of South Wales, Celeste R. Hudson of Arlington, Texas, Alexzandra E. Carr of Tomball, Texas, and Ashley Keefe of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Also, he is survived by uncles and aunts Dominic (Rita) Sorendo of Lady Lake, Florida; and Olga (Carl) Savino of Cortland.
He is also survived by many cousins, including Stephen (Annie) Ross of Hamburg, Kathleen, Cheryl and Christopher Ross of Texas; James Sorendo, Annemarie Giordano, Edna Thomas and Tony (Pam) Sorendo of Auburn; Marybeth Sorendo and John Sorendo of Syracuse; Michael Sorendo of Louisville, Kentucky; and Louis Sorendo of Oswego; and Jerry Sorendo and Kathy Sorendo Lazecko of Charlotte, North Carolina. Other cousins are Alice Depasquale of Seneca Falls, Ken Giovanni of Anderson, South Carolina, and Bill Clancy of Davison, Michigan. Also, Maureen Bodine, Harry Bodine, Michel Bodine and Michael Bodine all of Austin, Texas; and Kathy Bodine and Christine Bodine Ulemann of Cortland.
A Memorial Mass was offered on May 20 in St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church, Grand Island. Arrangements were by Kaiser Funeral Home of Grand Island. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, Lackawanna.