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His gift from Napoleon.

An incident occurred in his career in 1869, which was recognized in the most substantial manner. A French frigate arrived in Hampton Roads from the Spanish Main with yellow fever on board. Father O'Keefe was sent for to attend the sick. He responded immediately, and remained on board the frigate several days, only going ashore to bury the dead. He buried twenty-two or twenty-three of the officers and crew of the frigate at Sewell's Point, near Newport News. The dread of the fever was still in the town, and Father O'Keefe was forbidden to return to Norfolk, it being feared that he would bring the terrible disease with him. He took all proper precautions to prevent the fever spreading and came to Baltimore, where he remained two weeks, and then returned to his parish. In the meantime the admiral of the French fleet arrived in Hampton Roads looking: for the fever ship. [178]

He was informed what Father O'Keefe had done, and when the priest returned there were two letters for him from the French admiral. One was a private note, in which the admiral expressed his personal thanks for what the priest had done; the other was an official letter thanking him, in the name of the Government, for his services to the navy when in distress.

In the following spring Father O'Keefe received, through Hon. Hamilton Fish, the Secretary of State, a magnificent gold watch and chain from the Emperor Napoleon, with a letter expressing his gratitude for Father O'Keefe's services. The value of the watch and chain is not less than $500. The watch is elaborately chased, bearing the imperial crown. On one side is engraved, in bold relief, this inscription: ‘Presented by the Imperial Government of France to Rev. M. O'Keefe, cure of Norfolk, Va., for services rendered to the Imperial Marine, 1869.’ He was also enrolled as a member of the Legion of Honor of France.

Father O'Keefe served as chaplain of Mahone's Brigade, having been appointed to the position by the Confederate Secretary in 1861.

In 1887 Father O'Keefe returned to Baltimore and was appointed by Cardinal Gibbons to the chaplaincy of the Notre Dame Convent and pastor of St. Francis' Church Towson. In addition to his pastoral ruties, he had taken great interest in parochial schools, and was until recently superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.


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