O'KEEFE--Daniel L., 84, of Chappaqua, NY, a magazine editor, author and self-taught linguist, died August 29 in New York City. He earned a BA from Columbia, Ph.D. from the New School for Social Research, and studied at St. Catherine's College Oxford as a Rotary Fellow. His career in journalism started in high school: Dan gave speeches around the country for Junior Achievement. After one speech he was offered a New York radio show called "Youth Demands the Answer" but was fired when an on-air fistfight broke out between his guests. An editor at Reader's Digest, he worked with writers like Ray Bradbury, Ishmael Reed and Czeslaw Milosz. His book Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic (1982) was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. In a New York Times review, John Leonard said "Not since Marx, Darwin and Freud has there been anyone so opinionated" and "Mr. O'Keefe is a better writer than Darwin." He invented a family holiday "Festivus" that appeared in a "Seinfeld" episode now celebrated around the world, written by son Daniel. He spoke 40 languages with varying degrees of accuracy, Gaelic to Swahili to Tagalog. Each weekend in a Chappaqua bar he would speak multiple languages with his wife and anyone who would listen. Dan was born February 25 1928 in Jersey City to Charles and Jeanette O'Keefe. He is survived by his wife Deborah; son Daniel, wife Tina and grandson Nikos of Los Angeles; son Laurence and wife Nell of New York; son Markham of Los Angeles; and sister Eileen Duncan of Plymouth, MA.
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Published in The New York Times on Sept. 17, 2012