Don Kehoe, whose long career included covering sports for Newsday as well as working for the Town of Oyster Bay and Nassau OTB, died on Jan. 28 in Florida. He was 88 years old.
Friends and family described Kehoe as a gregarious man who loved spending time with his family, reading, writing, listening to music and playing golf.
“He was very driven,” said his daughter Jackie Meaney, of Bethpage. “He always spoke about how he got a job at 16 and was never without a job until he retired from OTB.”
Kehoe was born in Brooklyn in 1935 and went to work at the Long Island Press as a copy boy, replacing Jimmy Breslin, who had been promoted to reporter. He served in the Army from 1954 to 1956, stationed in France.
Family members said this was a turning point for Kehoe, who was greatly influenced by the other servicemen who had college degrees. Kehoe had dropped out of high school to start working. One of his Army roommates was writer Richard Goodwin, who went on to become an aide and speechwriter to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
“They suggested books to read and opened Don’s eyes,” said his wife, Linda Kehoe. “He saw there were a lot of dreams out there he could achieve.”
In 1956, Don Kehoe returned to the Long Island Press to cover high school sports and continued as a freelance sportswriter. He and his first wife, Patricia Cipullo, married and settled in Nesconset, where they raised four children.
“He wanted us to have the stability he never had,” said Meaney. “He also took us to the city to see shows, parks, art galleries — he really exposed us to a lot of culture.”
In 1966, Kehoe started covering local sports for Newsday ranging from high school football to professional bowling and tennis. One of his favorite moments was covering future tennis legend Arthur Ashe as he competed against Tony Roche in the 1966 Nassau Bowl.
A few years later, he made the change to government service as public information officer for the Town of Oyster Bay.
“He’s what you wanted in a public information officer,” said journalist Bruce Lambert, who first met Kehoe as a young reporter covering the town for Newsday and stayed in touch with him for over 50 years. “He provided accurate, reliable information. The fact that he had been a reporter helped him understand us. He knew what we wanted and needed.”
Lambert said that experience navigating numerous planning and zoning issues and their impact on the community helped Kehoe prepare for his next career with the fledgling Nassau Off-Track Betting Corp. in the mid-1970s. As director of administration and corporate affairs, Kehoe handled Teamster union negotiations, anti-gambling community resistance and political interference, Linda Kehoe said.
Along the way he ran numerous local campaigns for Republican candidates, family members said.
After Kehoe’s retirement from Nassau OTB in 1997, he and Linda married and moved to the Belfair Golf Community in South Carolina. In 2017, the couple moved to John Knox Village in central Florida.
“He was always a reporter,” said his son, Patrick Kehoe, of Oyster Bay. "He loved to go to restaurants and then critique them in a newsletter. If something was going on with golf or in the community, he would write that up, too. He was doing this up until a year ago. He was very witty and had a good sense of humor.”
And when he was no longer able to physically play golf, Don Kehoe found a new passion in playing pool, where he was known for making challenging shots, Linda Kehoe said.
In addition to his wife and children Jackie Meaney and Patrick Kehoe, survivors include his daughters Donna Henscheid, of Tomball, Texas, and Christine Kehoe, of Colts Neck, New Jersey; and five grandchildren.
Visitation will be held Feb. 22 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Arthur F. White Funeral Home in Bethpage. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Feb. 23 at 10 a.m. at Church of St. Martin of Tours in Bethpage.