July 9, 1926 – November 2, 2018
“Life is much like a bus journey. Sometimes short- sometimes long. I am lucky I had a long ride, 88 years so far. But I guess I am getting close to the corner with the yellow light flashing, soon to turn red. What a WONDERFUL RIDE it has been this far. There were lots of bumps and pot holes, but lots of great times too. So, I will continue to finish the last part of my life as it has been”.
– Joe Keenan, 2014.
On November 2nd, Joe’s journey was completed. Joe was born in Tranquille, BC to an Irish immigrant family, the sixth of seven children. His family moved to the Vancouver area when he was a toddler. With a mouth harp and a sense of adventure, Joe and a friend were buskers on the corner of Georgia and Granville, they were eight years old. It was not a prosperous time in the Keenan family and like so many of that era, Joe left school after the eighth grade to seek his fortune.
At 16 he Joined his brothers in Whitehorse, working at gold mines, running construction equipment and truck driving. In 1944 his brothers were conscripted into the army. Not wanting to be left alone in Whitehorse Joe volunteered and joined the army, only to find out his brothers, for medical reasons, were rejected. He served for 2 years and returned to Whitehorse, where he was able to start his first business. Joe loved the Yukon, he got his pilot’s licence, bought his first airplane, and enjoyed and loved all the adventure of flying in the north.
After 20 years in the Yukon he moved his family to Whiterock, BC and then Kelowna where he was a partner in his first hotel. Within five years he became sole owner. Joe always looked for new opportunities and adventure. After he sold the Kelowna property he was asked to manage a hotel in Grand Cayman, for a year he said he ”was on holiday not working”. He returned to Vernon where he owned two hotels, one was the old CPR Hotel on Okanagan Lake. It was renovated and ready to open when fire destroyed the building. This time in Joe’s life was definitely one of the “pot holes”, but he rebuilt and opened a new hotel. His final venture was a pub in Quesnel which he sold in 1993. Joe took an interest in the communities where he lived and was active and contributed in many ways.
In 1994 Joe and Emma moved to Nanoose Bay to enjoy retirement and personal pursuits. Joe loved the Island. The things he enjoyed were here – boating, fishing, golfing, and good friends. Joe wrote “I could have invested my money wisely instead of buying boats and airplanes and all the other toys, but I did enjoy that part of my life. What the hell it was fun”.
In his quiet and unassuming way Joe left an impression on many. When friends and relatives learned of his death the common response was “what a special man.” Joe was warm, charming and had an ability to connect with people. He even succeeded in charming his mother-in-law.
Joe is survived by Emma, his wife of 44 years, his son Gary (Deb), son Rick (Lori), 3 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren, also Emma’s siblings and their spouses, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews.
A special thank you to our neighbors and friends who, throughout this journey, supported Emma with hugs, meals, and glasses of wine.
Join us in a celebration of life for Joe Keenan on May 11th 2019 in the Clubhouse at Inglewood 1001 30th Avenue, Vernon B.C. 1 pm to 3 pm. Please park on the street.