Lives Remembered

Des McKeever: Family always to forefront for respected Portadown publican

Portadown publican Des McKeever died aged 75 on October 23

ONE of the readings at Des McKeever's funeral summed up much about his outlook on life.

"What I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone. There is no need to worry but if there is anything you need, pray for it... fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that we love and honour and everything that can be thought virtuous and worthy of praise."

Tolerance was the keynote of much of Des’s life and this was reflected in the packed congregation in St John the Baptist Church at Drumcree.

Mourners from all over Ireland were there and they represented every facet of life in the country.

Religious denominations meant nothing to Des. He did indeed endeavour to fill his mind with everything that is true, everything that is noble, and he was loved and respected by everyone with whom he came in contact.

Des, a towering figure as he went on his daily walk from his Ridgeway Park North home, The Irish Times tucked under his gabardine coat, died after a short illness on October 23.

He was 75 and among those who joined in the tributes were his son, Stephen.

He spoke eloquently of his dad and of the influence he had on the family.

“He set a wonderful example to all of us, always taking an interest in what we were doing, always making sure that we had the chance to progress in life and, most important of all, ensuring that we were happy."

Des spent much of his life in the licensing trade, covering the whole of Ireland, and, again, it said much of the respect in which he was held that he was welcome in every licensed premise in Portadown, no matter which side of the house.

Back in the 1970s he and his brother Felix ran The Meeting Place in Woodhouse Street in Portadown, one of the most successful eating houses in the area, and later they branched out and opened the Famous Grouse in Loughgall.

He was also bar manager at Portadown Rugby Club for a time and the club, like all the other sports organisations in which he was involved, was represented at the funeral.

Sport was very much to the forefront of Des’s life – Gaelic, hurling, soccer, rugby, boxing and golf - and he was a frequent visitor to Dublin for all the major sporting events, none giving him more pleasure than when Armagh brought home the Sam Maguire cup.

But he could talk knowledgeably about all sports and he enjoyed the banter at his regular coffee breaks in the Yellow Door in Woodhouse Street, his hearty laugh, a feature of his bubbling personality, often ringing round the restaurant.

The huge attendance at his funeral said much about the man and his family who are held in the highest regard in Portadown and much farther afield.

Des McKeever is survived by his devoted wife of 52 years Flo, son Stephen, daughters Caroline and Lisa, daughter-in-law Amanda, sons-in-law Philip and Sean, grandchildren Sian, Sam, Oliver, Maya, Rosa, Finn and Connie, sisters Frances, Pauline and Barbara, brother Felix, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews.

David Armstrong

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