Fr Joe McKeever remembered as 'a great and colourful character'
Warm tributes have been paid to a former Crossmaglen parish priest who has passed away from Covid-19.
Portadown native Fr Joe McKeever died at Craigavon Area Hospital on Saturday morning.
The retired priest has been described as a “great character” who was well-known right across Co Armagh and beyond.
Fr McKeever taught at Drumcree High School for a number of years before he entered the priesthood, when aged in his 40s.
Among those paying tribute following his passing was Fr Paddy McCafferty, parish priest at Corpus Christi in Ballymurphy.
The west Belfast priest said: “Joe, originally from Portadown, was a late vocation having taught in Drumcree High School for some time. He was in his early 40s when he came to Maynooth to study for the priesthood. He was my next door neighbour for a while back then.”
Fr McCafferty added: “He was absolutely hilarious. A very colourful character and great company. A very kind and wise pastor too. May God rest his good and dear soul.”
The Bishop of Killaloe Fintan Monahan said his former classmate would be remembered as “a man of great intellect and sharp but gentle wit”.
Newry and Armagh SDLP MLA Justin McNulty added: “So sorry to hear of the passing of Fr. Joe McKeever RIP. What craic we had with him down the years around the football. And I know how well got he was amongst all his parishioners. He will be sorely missed.”
Close friend, the Emmy award winning singer and TV producer, Eamonn McCrystal, said: “Fr McKeever and I worked on many projects together including ‘Rest For Your Soul’. My sincere condolences to his family. I’ll miss you Joe!”
Crossmaglen Rangers said its players, members, supporters and friends were also “deeply saddened” to learn of the passing of “a loyal, devoted and passionate supporter”.
They added: “We all have fond memories of Fr Joe enjoying many successes with us. We send our sincere condolences to the entire McKeever family at this difficult time.”
McKeever’s Bar in Portadown – which is owned by Fr Joe’s family – posting on their Facebook page, commented: “As I am sure most of you have now heard of the sad passing of Fr Joe McKeever.
“As you can all imagine we are all deeply saddened with this loss. Fr Joe was more than just a priest to us. He was a brother, an uncle, a teacher, a mentor, a dear dear friend to everyone.
“He will be missed more than words can convey. We love you Joe.”
A funeral notice said Fr McKeever was the beloved son of the late Sarah (Sadie) and Patsy and dear brother of Colm, Marian (Gallagher), Patricia (Gallagher), Charlie, Colette (McNally), Mark and the late Gary.
A private funeral will take place for Fr. McKeever with Requiem Mass being celebrated at a later date.
It added that his death is deeply regretted by his loving family, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Bishop Michael Router, Cardinal Seán Brady, the Priests of the Archdiocese, family circle and many friends.