L. Thomas-O'Keefe, 40, 'lit up a room'
Lesley Thomas-O'Keefe came to this country a year ago not in pursuit of the American dream, but rather to live it.
"I've been telling people she took a real bite out of New York," said her husband, Joseph O'Keefe. "She went to museums, did tours and also went throughout the surrounding area. But most of all, she absolutely liked the Hoboken waterfront."
The O'Keefes moved to Hoboken a year ago from Sydney, Australia, where they had met in the mid-'90s and married in 1999. For him the move was a return home, and a chance to reconnect with family in Elizabeth, after years of work in the financial markets of Australia.
For his wife, he said, it was "quite exciting, a new opportunity and challenge."
Three months ago, Mrs. Thomas-O'Keefe, 40, began work as a broker for Cantor Fitzgerald Securities on the 105th floor of One World Trade Center.
On the morning of Sept. 11, O'Keefe retrieved a message on a mobile phone from his wife. In a calm voice, she said the building had been struck by a plane and there was total chaos in the office. Mrs. Thomas-O'Keefe said she was calling to say she loved him and that she was all right and would see him when it was over.
O'Keefe, a self-employed futures trader, left his Midtown office and rushed to the World Trade Center. He arrived in the vicinity as the building in which his wife worked collapsed.
"It was horrible," he said, adding that he got as close as he could to observe search-and-rescue efforts. "I was there until 3 or 4 in the morning, walking the streets."
O'Keefe said he is comforted by memories of his wife and how she "touched people in small ways that are important, and made everyone feel better."
Mrs. Thomas-O'Keefe had worked in Sydney for the Bank of New York, Bankers Trust and the Dutch bank ABN-AMRO. Shortly after moving to New Jersey, she became active in the American Australian Association in New York and began editing its women's newsletter.
"She was very unique, beautiful and had a great accent," recalled a sister-in-law, Claire Bockenhauer of Roselle Park. "She lit up a room, was very friendly, outgoing and got along with everyone."
In addition to her husband and sister-in-law, Mrs. Thomas-O'Keefe is survived by her mother, Jackie Thomas of Green Point, Australia, and her brother, Mark of Tascott, both in New South Wales; her mother-in-law and father-in-law, Teresa and Joseph O'Keefe of Brick; brother-in-law Thomas of St. Petersburg, Fla.; and two more sisters-in-law, Ann Marie Scanlon of Westfield and Terry Sheils of Shelton, Conn.
Profile by Jason Jett published in THE STAR-LEDGER.