Rosemarie O’Keefe – an active life
Many people in our local area recognised Rosemarie O’Keefe on her daily walks to Hauxley, Warkworth and round the pier. In her characteristic jeans, fleecy jacket and woolly hat, she walked at a pace that belied her 88 years.
I’ve known Rosemarie for more than half a century, and she’s been my neighbour for 22 years. She retired from her post as principal of a commercial school in Toronto at the age of 66.
The sixth of nine children of a well-known local family, Rosemarie left school at 14 to work in “Fenty” Taylor’s shop on Queen Street. After studying shorthand and typing with Betty Roland (Matthews), she worked in Adam Douglas, solicitor’s office in Alnwick. Rosemarie spent two years in the WAAFs, followed by office work at Reyrolles in Ashington. A move to London to work for Shell Oil led her to emigrate to Toronto in the 1950s. Further study in Toronto, including gaining two degrees, enabled her to move into teaching, leading to promotions and a good career.
Always fit and active, Rosemarie loved downhill skiing, windsurfing, canoeing, sailing, swimming, badminton and tennis. She travelled widely during her time in Canada, just as she did on her return to the UK. She settled in Amble, her beloved home town, in 1994. Most of her siblings still lived here at that time. Many of us remember the parties she gave for her extended family and a wider circle of friends.
On Wednesday, December 7 Rosemarie set off on her last walk. She was seen leaving Amble at about 3pm and returning from Warkworth about two hours later. She followed her usual route along Rotary Way (the Warkworth Road to you and me). It is likely that she followed the path past the new Shorebase, Amble Boat Club and Coquet Yacht Club.
It was dark and Rosemarie’s night vision was very poor, which, no doubt, is why she fell into the river, in the area of the Bund, beside the marina. She had walked that way hundreds of times over the years with no problems. This time she was not able to cope with the conditions and sadly she drowned.
We’ll all miss Rosemarie for her ready smile and her cheerful personality, her flashes of wit and funny remarks. She was living proof of the fact that staying active keeps you fit and able to cope with the challenges of life.
We can only admire the dedication of the police, the coastguard, the inshore lifeboat team and the local people who joined the search that evening, until its sad conclusion at 1am on Thursday December 8.
Rosemarie left us all, while doing what she loved to do – walking one of her favourite walks in the Amble area. I know that Rosemarie would approve of the £235 donation to the Alzheimer’s Society.