Boatswain's Mate Daniel R. McKeever
United States Navy (1965-1969)
From time to time, residents strolling past
the cannon along Brookline Boulevard at Queensboro Avenue might come across a
thin, bearded man wearing a Navy Vietnam Veteran's cap, quietly toiling by himself
inside the small parklet.
He might be pushing a broom, working with a
garden tool, holding a paint brush or retiring a flag. That person would be Dan
McKeever, volunteer caretaker of the Veteran's Memorial.
Daniel Ray McKeever was born on July 15, 1946.
His mother passed away in the hospital shortly after giving birth. A few months later
Dan was adopted by his grandparents, Elsie M. and Lacy Scott McKeever. The family also
included Aunt Genevieve Cochran and World War I veteran Uncle Clarence
Dan grew up in Scott Township and graduated
from Chartiers Valley High School with the Class of 1965. Later that year he enlisted
in the United States Navy.
On December 26, 1965, he left home for the Great
Lakes Naval Training Base. After training, McKeever received orders to report aboard the
USS Charles Rorlan Ware (DD865), stationed at Mayport, Florida. His assignment
was to the Boatswain's Mate Division.
Aboard ship, a Boatswain's Mate trains, directs,
and supervises personnel in ship's maintenance duties and in all activities relating to
marlinspike, deck, boat seamanship, painting, upkeep of ship's external structure,
rigging, deck equipment, and boats.
The Boatswain's Mate takes charge of working
parties, performs seamanship tasks, acts as petty officer-in-charge of picketboats,
self-propelled barges, tugs, and other district craft.
Bosuns, as they are commonly referred to,
also serve in, or take charge of damage control parties. They operate and maintain
equipment used in loading and unloading cargo, ammunition, fuel, and general stores.
They are integral to ship's navigation and serve as ship's Helmsman and the ship's
The USS Charles R. Ware left Mayport on
February 21, 1967, for the Western Pacific and the war in Vietnam. Bosun's Mate McKeever
passed through the Panama Canal when, for the first time in its many years of service,
the USS Ware entered the Pacific Ocean. The ship soon became a member of the U.S.
Seventh Fleet's Task Force 77.1 during "Operation Sea Dragon."
The USS Charles R. Ware underway off
Oahu in August 1967.
Operation Sea Dragon was a series of
American-led naval operations beginning in October 1966 to interdict sea lines of
communications and supply going south from North Vietnam to South Vietnam, and to
destroy land targets with naval gunfire.
Targets included coastal radar installations,
boat repair facilities, bridges, and surface-to-air missile sites. By February 1967
raids were being conducted as far as 230 miles north of the Demilitarized Zone all
the way to the 20th parallel.
Life aboard Sea Dragon destroyers proved
stressful and tiring, yet morale consistently remained high. Crew morale was actually
better, in fact, than morale on similar ships to the south. This resulted from a
combination of frequent and true action by destroyer crewmen, immediate results from
their efforts, and the possibility of being shot at by communist coastal
At the height of the operation in May 1967,
two cruisers and twelve destroyers, including the USS Charles R. Ware, were assigned
Sea Dragon missions. In nearly twenty missions conducted by the USS Charles R. Ware,
1080 rounds of ammunition were fired at enemy targets.
On five occasions the enemy returned fire but
no hits or casualties were sustained although shrapnel sprinkled the deck. The Ware
and her crew spent ninety days in the combat zone.
The USS Charles R. Ware approaching the
USS Allen M. Sumner during Operation Sea Dragon in Spring 1967.
After three months in the war zone, the USS
Charles R. Ware retired towards the Hawaiian Islands. On September 8, 1967, Bosun's
Mate Dan McKeever crossed the equator for the first time and underwent the
time-honored Navy tradition of Shellback Initiation.
The Pollywog sailors are put on trial by King
Neptune's Court. After a day of ritual hardships, the Pollywogs are declared Shellbacks
and awarded a coveted certificate. Shortly afterwards, the USS Ware was back in the
United States and Dan was home on leave.
While on leave, on October 10, 1967, Dan married
his long-time girlfriend Helen Finnegan of Brookline, who he had met back in 1963.
The couple settled in Jacksonville Beach, Florida in a rented home.
After a brief honeymoon, Dan was back on th
e USS Ware and, in March 1968, headed out to sea, destined for the Mediterranean Sea,
Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. This deployment with the U.S. Middle East Force
lasted until September 1968, during which time the USS Ware crossed the Equator six
The USS Charles R. Ware returned from
the Middle Eastern duty and, beginning in January 1969, settled at the Guantanamo
Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Bosun's Mate Dan McKeever left the Navy and returned home
to his wife Helen in late-1969. The couple soon moved to Pittsburgh to start a new
life, settling on Jacob Street in Brookline.
Dan took a job with the United States
Postal Service on March 23, 1970. He and Helen had three children: Kevin, Tracey
and Amy. Thirty-eight years later, on July 18, 2008, Dan celebrated his retirement
from the Postal Service.
This joyful occasion was sadly tempered by
the recent loss of Tracey, who passed away just nine months earlier from cancer.
She had one child, Dan's grandson Logan, born in 2006.
Dan McKeever has always been a man with
a big heart, willing to do his best in a number of social causes. While still a
postal employee in 1996, he started an aluminum can recycling program with the
West Penn Hospital called "Cans For Burned Children," an initiative that he remains
very involved with.
In 2009, Dan became a member of the American
Legion Post #156 in Dormont and is now a life-member. Through the organization
he became involved in some community activities. One of his favorite places in the
neighborhood is the Veteran's Memorial on Brookline Boulevard, a small parklet
maintained by the American Legion.
Dan working at the Triangle Park painting
the sign in August 2014 and the railing in August 2019.
Dan at the Brookline Triangle Park painting
the railing in August 2019.
Dan has adopted the park and become the
official caretaker of the Veteran's Memorial. He can be seen, from time to time,
pulling weeds, painting the sign, the railing or the cannon itself. He is responsible
for the care of the U.S., POW/MIA and State flags, something very dear to his heart
and done with proper care and respect by a proud Navy veteran.
Along with Joe Nellis, he also maintains
the flags unfurled above the small parklet at the Whited/Jacob Street community
welcome sign. One might also see him with his mower and hedge trimmers tidying up
the surrounding landscape. It was Dan's idea to display the POW/MIA flag at the
cannon and the State flag at Whited Street.
Today it is hard to imagine being up
by the cannon without the iconic black and white flag flying proudly below the
Stars and Stripes, honoring all of our servicemen and women over the years who are
missing or were captured and held by the enemy.
Dan speaking with Clint Burton at
the unveiling of the new Brookline Honor Roll plaque on August 31, 2019.
To the right is Dan with Joe Nellis and State Representative Harry
Always on the move in search of a good deed,
Dan sponsored and worked the popular Ring Toss/Goldfish Pond at the Resurrection Fun
Flairs for many years. He also painted the sign at the entrance to Brookline Memorial
Park and the McGibbeny Field sign back in 2016.
Dan's latest community initiative was the
having of a decorative U.S. flag drop box installed outside the former American
Legion Hall, now the Brookline Teen Outreach Center.
The box provides residents with a convenient
way to deposit worn American flags with the knowledge that those flags will be properly
retired by the Boy Scouts of Brookline's Troop #6.
The flag drop box is decoratively adorned with
a bald eagle along with the stars and stripes. On the front is the motto
"All Gave Some - Some Gave All."
This motto is an appropriate expression each
Memorial Day, another time when Dan is busy honoring fellow veterans. Dan handles the
flag lowering during the opening ceremony and participates in the parade, riding his
blue-white-red Honda scooter flying patriotic flags.
Dan with Scout Leader Fred Metting during
the installation of the box (left), and with State Senator
Wayne Fontana, Joe Nellis and Clint Burton at the drop box dedication on
August 17, 2020.
A Fitting Tribute On
On Veteran's Day, November 11, 2020, with a
hint of historic significance, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,
in a fitting tribute to a quiet and humble man, friends and dignitaries gathered at
Brookline's Cannon as Dan McKeever was honored with a special proclamation from
City Councilman Anthony Coghill for his years of volunteerism and his continued
dedication to the community of Brookline and the city of Pittsburgh.
The text of the City Council proclamation
read as follows:
WHEREAS, Dan McKeever is a Vietnam Veteran who served as Bosun's Mate aboard the
USS Charles R. Ware from 1966-1969, taking part in Operation Sea Dragon off the
coast of North Vietnam in 1967; and,
WHEREAS, McKeever began the recycling program "Cans For Burned Children" in
cooperation with West Penn Hospital; and,
WHEREAS, McKeever was the long-time sponsor of the Ring Toss/Live Goldfish Pond
at the Resurrection Fun Flair in Brookline where he was always present to work
the booth helping to raise thousands of dollars for the church; and,
WHEREAS, McKeever has been the neighborhood caretaker of the Brookline Veteran’s
Memorial along Brookline Boulevard and has maintained the Brookline Welcome Sign
handling minor repairs, care for the flags, upkeep of the areas, and is the reason
why the POW/MIA flag flies underneath the Stars and Stripes; and,
WHEREAS, McKeever partnered with the Boy Scouts of America to unveil a U.S. Flag
Retirement Drop Box at The Brookline Teen Outreach Center on Brookline Boulevard
so any U.S. Flag that is no longer in a condition "fitting for display" can be
retired in a dignified way and is working to purchase and install more drop boxes
in other Pittsburgh Communities; and,
WHEREAS, McKeever has taken it upon himself to paint and refurbish wooden signposts
in community to parks placing small flags on special occasions; and,
WHEREAS, McKeever is present to lower the flags at "The Cannon" on Memorial Day
before riding his scooter with large Vietnam Veteran Flags waving proudly in his
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Council of the City of Pittsburgh does
hereby commend Dan Mckeever; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Council of the City of Pittsburgh does hereby
declare Wednesday, November 11th, 2020, to be "Dan McKeever Day" in the City of
Dan speaks to the kids from the Tree
of Life Day School and performs the Veteran's Day flag raising.
Dan is presented with the proclamation
in his honor by City Councilman Anthony Coghill.
A proud retired Boatswain's Mate waves to
those in the vehicle procession that did a celebratory drive by.
Dan addresses the crowd and accepts the
congratulations of State Senator Wayne Fontana.
The community of Brookline is fortunate to
have civic-minded residents like Daniel Ray McKeever. It is he, and other dedicated
volunteers like him, that help make this neighborhood a special place.
Our country is fortunate to have people like
Dan who serve in the armed forces. It is he, and other brave men and women like him,
that help make the United States of America a beacon of freedom and
* Written by Clint Burton -
February 20, 2020; Photos provided by Amy Fisher;
Updated: November 11, 2020 *
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