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New York Times obituary recalls Coast leader Jerry O’Keefe’s heroics

Former Biloxi Mayor and World War II ace fighter pilot Jerry O’Keefe was eulogized in an obituary in the New York Times.

The obituary, published online Saturday, was by noted obituary writer William Grimes. O’Keefe died Tuesday at age 93.

The Times article focuses on O’Keefe’s career in the military. He joined the U.S. Navy after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor and received his wings from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943. He earned the status of flying ace — generally acknowledged to have been achieved when a pilot shoots down five enemy aircraft — in his very first aerial battle.

In 1945, O’Keefe was part of a squadron nicknamed the Death Rattlers that went head to head with a squad of Japanese Kamikaze pilots in Okinawa. He was awarded a number of medals for his heroics including the Air Medal, the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

O’Keefe talked about his days in the Death Rattlers in an episode of the program “Dogfights” on cable TV’s The History Channel.

He was laid to rest with full military honors Saturday in Ocean Springs.

According to investigative news website Vice.com, the New York Times writes obituaries for only about 1,000 people of the 2.5 million who die in the United States each year.

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