Celebrating 28 years of O’Keefe Reunions, the result of a long-ago meant-to-be meeting between cousins!
Nearly thirty years ago, my husband Dan happened to be in Arizona on a business trip. He decided to reconnect with his cousin Greg, who he didn’t see much due to thousands of miles of distance between them. During a delightful visit over a few beers, the two men reminisced about the couple of times their two families had vacationed together, not far from Superior, Wisconsin, where Greg’s mom and Dan’s dad (who are siblings) grew up. Dan and Greg’s long-ago nostalgic meant-to-be conversation became the impetus for starting a family tradition of every-other year family reunions that has enabled once-distant cousins and their offspring to become great friends.
The first reunion occurred over a long July weekend, in 1986. I had only met Greg and his two brothers once or twice before then. Similarly, I barely knew any of Dan’s other cousins, and wouldn’t have been able to recognize any of them on a street corner. This was very different from what I was used to with my own huge family, especially on my mother’s side, since most of her relatives still lived in Minnesota. We often saw each other at large gatherings which included 42 first cousins, plus many second, third and once (or more) removed ones. When Dan and Greg decided to have an O’Keefe family reunion, I was excited that our children would now get to know more of Dan’s side of our family.
Dan’s father and his two surviving sisters (one brother had already died) and their spouses were thrilled to gather with their children and grandchildren at a resort near Cable Wisconsin. Over pot luck dinners, evening bonfires, long pontoon rides and just hanging out on the beach, the O’Keefe cousins reconnected with each other. And their spouses and children got to know a new extended family. Thanks to the organizational leadership of another cousin, Barb, every now week-long reunion since then has become even more fun than the previous one.
Dan’s father and all his O’Keefe aunts and uncles are no longer with us. His mother Liz, at 89, is the last remaining member of her generation. She loved being with the many members of a family that has been hers for nearly 65 years. She especially loved welcoming the five newest additions to her clan:
Barb, Greg and Dan, along with their other cousins and spouses, plus their children and grandchildren, all treasure the times they have with each other, not only at the reunion, but whenever else they can see each other. Had Greg and Dan not gone out for beers that long-ago evening, none of us would have the precious memories of so many meaningful times together as an extended family.
It’s never too late to start a new tradition, especially for families who don’t see each other often. I encourage anyone who feels inclined to reconnect with family (and/or old friends!) to do it. You are hearing that message for a reason. Responding to it will be a great gift, not only for you, but for your children and grandchildren!