On March 11, 2016 the Washington State Patrol lost a former trooper and beloved friend. At 96-years-old, Jack O’Keefe was the oldest living former Washington State Patrol (WSP) trooper. In October 2015, O’Keefe and his eldest daughter, Nancy Paulsrude, stopped by Headquarters to visit with the staff and share stories. Sitting in the lobby, O’Keefe reminisced about some of the details as if it were yesterday. O’Keefe said he still remembers the good fortune that led to his nearly three-decade career at the Washington State Patrol. “Been lucky all my life,” he stated. “It’s because I am Irish.”
O’Keefe’s “Irish luck” certainly paid off. As O’Keefe said around 1950 he had just quit a job at the State’s Central Budget Office. He was unemployed and standing in the lobby of the General Administration (GA) Building when he ran into Bob Jones, the WSP Financial Officer. Jones was called to active duty as a military reservist and he told O’Keefe that he should put in for the job.
This began a 28-year career. When he started, O’Keefe was a non-commissioned employee. However, he says just one year after starting his employment, Chief James A. Pryde required some employees to undergo trooper training. On July 1, 1951 he officially became a commissioned trooper. He said he didn’t even recognize the current training academy. When he attended it was less developed and he remembers there just being a big barn. Work schedules were also a little different then. Five days a week he worked as Financial Officer at the GA building and on the sixth work day, he drove and patrolled the roads of Mason County.
During the interview, O’Keefe recalled his time serving at the State Capitol, vividly describing the times he was called to action to protect the Governor when unauthorized individuals made their way into the Governor’s Office. He even told Assistant Chief Jeffrey R. Sass about the multiple VIP’s he escorted around the State including former state governors, Albert Rosellini, Daniel J. Evans, and Dixy Lee Ray.
In 1978, O’Keefe turned in his badge – coincidently or not, on St. Patrick’s Day – and headed to Sun City, Arizona, to begin his life of rest and retirement. Throughout the remainder of his life, O’Keefe was extremely proud of his affiliation with the State Patrol and stayed up-to-date with all things related to the WSP.
Jack is survived by his wife, Charlotte and children: Nancy and Steve Paulsrude, Olympia, WA; Linda Hering, Portland, OR; Peggy and Jay, Olympia, WA; Jack and Carrie O’Keefe, Carefree, AZ; grandsons: Aaron Barker, Tait Elder, and John O’Keefe; sisters: Ceil Twombly and Patsy McGuire; many nieces and nephews on the O’Keefe and Iverson sides of the family who loved him dearly.
“May the road rise up to meet you.”
- Jack began working for the Washington State Patrol on December 21, 1950.
- On July 1, 1951, Jack became a commissioned officer assigned to Olympia.
- On April 1, 1959, Jack was promoted to a Sergeant.
- On July 1, 1963, Jack was promoted to a Lieutenant.
- On February 1, 1966, Jack was promoted to a Captain.
- On January 1, 1974, Jack was promoted to a Major.