Donna Keefe died this past Saturday afternoon at HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston. She was 62.
She was born in Kingston on November 9, 1959, the daughter of the late Maynard and Shirley Keefe. She grew up with five siblings in Keefe Hollow in Shady and attended the Onteora schools.
Donna lived with her husband, Jim O’Neill, at the western dead end of Cold Brook Road in the Town of Shandaken, though the only way to get to their house by car was through Olive. Their land bordered on the forest preserve, so all kinds of critters came by. Donna befriended most of them. She and Jim hosted wonderful parties for their friends, at which they prepared incredible food. Among her favorite pastimes were tending to her garden, watching the full moon, and relaxing on a beach.
Her daughter Keira, now a teacher in the Margaretville schools, was Donna’s pride and joy. Donna always made sure all her loved ones were taken care of, especially her daughter.
Donna leaves behind her husband, daughter Keira Eisenbeil and son-in-law Derek Boyle of Boiceville. She is also survived by three brothers, Kenneth and his wife Lisa, Timothy and his wife Kimberly, and Clayton and wife Teresa, all of Shady; and two sisters, Barbara Fairbanks and her husband David in Florida, and Mary Zimmerman of South Carolina. Several nieces and nephews also survive.
Close to a quarter of a century ago, Donna and her parents hosted us for a winter visit at Keefe Hollow in the valley north of Guardian Mountain. My wife Sue and I brought our two younger children; Alex was about nine or ten years old, Niko about seven. They went sledding on a gentle slope near the house.
The Keefes proved gracious hosts, showing us the farm animals both in the barn and wandering about the lawn. They asked each of us about our interests. We talked a little about how Woodstock had changed. We ate lunch.
Donna was very happy the next day. The Keefes had found us interesting to talk to. They said that the four of us were all different from each other, but we were a family.
I didn’t know it that day, but from then on we were treated by Donna like family. We were family. It turned out to be one of the great privileges of our lives.
Donna was famous for the elaborate concoctions of fruit, snacks, tins and unimaginably imaginative foods she would wrap and cram in a wicker basket — complete with little ribbons of green paper, of course — as gifts for the Christmas holidays. We protested at the amount of work gathering it must have taken. “Oh, it really wasn’t that hard,” she assured us. “I make them for all my family, and one more isn’t any trouble.”
She was the most giving person any of us had ever met, with a wide smile that lit up any room.
Donna liked to joke about everybody who grew up together in old Woodstock being related to each other. That may have been an exaggeration, but there’s more than a grain of truth to it. People who grew up together in a small town know each other very well, and there’s often a vein of sociability beneath the taciturn surface that most outsiders experience.
Donna’s main job at Ulster Publishing was making the calendar. She was extremely conscientious about her work, reaching out to a wide variety of people and organizations. Her positive attitude and knack for establishing relationships served her well.
The popularity of the calendar part of the Almanac section was in no small part due to Donna’s efforts. The calendar shriveled in size when the pandemic first hit two years ago. When it was halted after the print editions were consolidated into Hudson Valley One, Donna announced that she was going to continue the calendar without pay. She did the calendar on line for months, and as the financial situation gradually improved Donna was persuaded to accept pay again.
Donna and Sue would celebrate the full moon, often next to the Esopus Creek outside the Emerson in Mount Pleasant. They were resourceful. When the full moon came on a particularly cold night last February, the pair were able to fortify themselves with hot toddies Jim was persuaded to make.
“We are all so lucky to have had Donna in our lives,” said Tobi Watson, who manages legal notices, classified ads and service directories at Ulster Publishing. “I too cannot believe she will not walk through the door at work to chat about life.”
Donna Keefe will be long remembered.
Friends will be received on Friday, January 28 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the E. B. Gormley Funeral Home, 87 Main Street in Phoenicia. A Spring memorial service to celebrate the life of Donna is being planned. You may share a special memory or condolence with the family on Donna’s Tribute Wall at gormleyfuneralhome.com. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Mark Wilsey at the E. B. Gormley Funeral Home, Phoenicia.