Published Thursday 29 November 2018 at 10:46
Tributes have been paid to a popular former councillor and JP described as a ‘true gentleman’ and affectionately known as ‘a man of the people who got things done’.
Ron O’Keeffe, 88, served as an elected councillor for Blackburn with Darwen Council for many years from 2002 and was also a borough magistrate for over 30 years.
A local businessman with a passion for politics and community spirit, he was regularly seen litter picking in the neighbourhoods he served, collecting thousands of bags of rubbish from the streets throughout his life.
His family say he was so dedicated to the community he served, that he even carried on litter picking whilst unbeknown to him he was having a heart attack.
And even after he suffered the heart attack and couldn’t walk very far, he continued to get in his car and drive round the streets so he could continue to help make the streets clean and tidy.
His family said Ron was the kind of person who would help anyone and lived a full and active life, running his DIY shop, Little Sheffield in Fleming Square. He was a dedicated councillor, magistrate and family man.
Son Ronnie said:
He got his rewards in life from helping others, he was very proud to have been a JP.
He was what you would call a proper councillor, he would get calls from people at all times of the day and night and he would go and help them, whether it be to fill out forms or to clear snow to help the ‘old people’ get out. More often than not the ‘old people’ were actually younger than him!”
Ron was first elected on 2 May 2002 when he served in the Meadowhead ward of Blackburn and also served in Shadsworth and Whitebirk wards.
A long-standing magistrate, Ron held many posts during his time serving on Council committees which included: Vice Chair Corporate Resources, Vice Chair Licensing, Chair Policy and Review Committee, Chair Children’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Chair Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Chair Children and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Chair of Health and Adults Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Blackburn with Darwen Council Leader Mohammed Khan paid tribute to Ron and said: “It’s incredibly sad news that we have lost one of the gentlest and most committed councillors I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
Ron would be out and about litter picking and solving ward issues regularly and got things done for the people he was there to serve.
Ron would say it as it is but would also have a level decorum in his conduct. He was passionate about everything he did, especially about health and social care.
Ron will be remembered for many things, not least for his positive outlook and for being a true gentleman. It was a credit to have known and worked with Ron. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this sad time.”
Councillor Phil Riley, Executive Member for Regeneration and Growth and personal friend, added:
Ron was a great guy – sometimes stubborn, often opinionated but always kind and considerate particularly with regards to young people and, for many years, he took an active interest in youth justice and the rehabilitation of young people who had gone astray.
He had a wealth of stories stretching back to his wartime experiences and his long-standing role as the owner of the Little Sheffield hardware shop at various locations in Blackburn town centre.
Of course, it’s always sad when a person passes away but, when they have lived a life as full and as rewarding as Ron, there is also a sense of celebration in the achievements and the legacy of memories.”
Ron leaves his five children Sharon, Ronnie, Jennifer, Sandra and Patrick, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
His funeral is being held on Friday 7 December at 9.30am at St Albans Church, Blackburn followed by cremation service at Pleasington Crematorium at 10.45am.
Family have requested family flowers only and any donations to be made to Derian House Children’s Hospice and East Lancashire Hospice, both of which Ron was a regular supporter of.