Cover photo for Dennis Michael O'Keefe's Obituary
Dennis Michael O'Keefe Profile Photo
1946 Dennis 2023

Dennis Michael O'Keefe

May 21, 1946 — February 1, 2023

Chief O’Keefe

Dennis Michael O’Keefe

The ducks and geese are safe, the deer have no fear and the bad guys take a deep breath. 

All because Jesus decided it was time to bring Dennis home.  Surrounded by family, he raised his right arm and reached for his Lord and Savior’s hand! 

The only son of Chief James and Delores (Nolle) O’Keefe, Dennis Michael O’Keefe was born on May 21, 1946 in Sioux City, Iowa.  He attended St. Michael’s Elementary, and graduated from Heelan High School in 1964.  Dennis lettered in track, a skill that served him well in chasing down above- mentioned bad guys. He played hockey for the Sioux City Musketeers. Most of his free time was spent trapping, hunting, and fishing in the Floyd River Valley. In his early years, he was a boy scout then explorer scout and later an assistant scout master at St. Michael’s.  He served at many Church dinners and Parish events. 

On December 16, 1967 Dennis joined the Sioux City Police Department. He loved his job, to protect and serve. The youngest police officer to advance to Police Sergeant, Dennis moved quickly through the ranks to Police Captain.  He earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from Morningside College in 1974.

He attended the Southern Police Institute in Louisville, Kentucky and had done graduate work in Police Administration at the University of South Dakota.  He had served as a consultant to the Northwest Iowa Area Crime Commission in the 1970s, specializing in the use of resources.  He developed the planning  and resource division at the SCPD.  As a Lieutenant he worked to create the MOCIC (Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center), now one of six centers in the nation.

Dennis served 10 years in the SCPD Detective Bureau.  Toward the end of that term, he led a massive narcotics investigation, involving nearly 250 million dollars of“sting” money.  When the traps were closed, somewhere between 60-70 narcotics dealers were arrested, and every one of them convicted.  In 1972, Dennis organized the Major Offender Team within the Police Department. 

In the many stories he shared with his family, one could hear the pride he had for his fellow officers and his hometown of Sioux City. We wish he would have written a book so that more of his memories could have been shared generation to generation. Dennis was a humble man and many of the newspaper articles were things he had never talked about. The awards and "cop shop" stuff he kept to himself. One Sioux City Journal article mentioned that even at the age of 40, Captain O'Keefe didn't sit much at his desk. At 6'3" and about 220 pounds he raced from the old police station on foot to try to nab two car-borne suspects who had shotgunned a window about a block away.  Dennis enjoyed the fast paced action of police work.

He met Janet Behm at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire and only had eyes for her for the next 57 years.  They shared a life of love and family.  Dennis’ passion for the outdoors took Jan on all sorts of adventures!  They had four children, in five years:  Kelly Marie, Katie Ann, James Michael, and Shawn Patrick. 

Excited to start family vacations early on, to create traditions and memories, the family went canoeing, boating, hiking, wilderness camping, swimming, ice skating, fishing,and lots of  National Park escapades!  One of Dennis’s favorite trips included piling his wife and four kids into a Dodge K-car, pulling an eighteen foot freighter canoe loaded with tents and gear to Alaska, the last frontier!  The drive home went over the firemen’s hoses fighting the Canadian fire which closed the Alaskan Highway in 1981. 

Dennis made sure his family grew up with a firm foundation.  We prayed and went to Church.  He taught us to love our Country and the men/women who defended our freedoms.  To value honesty and integrity.  He created a legacy that will always honor him! 

We were so blessed.

In 1987, Dennis accepted the Chief of Police job in St. Cloud, MN.  He served as Chief of Police through 2001.  During his term as Chief of Police, he transformed the department into a progressive, modern-aged agency.  He introduced many new programs and ideas, to include some of the following: 

  • Hired the first two female St. Cloud Police Officers to ever serve in the St. Cloud Police Department.
  • Upgraded the criteria for hiring Police Officers, to include possessing a four year degree.
  • Modernized the department by introducing computerization.
  • Created the Citizens Review Board to include community members and St. Cloud Police Department personnel to sit on the board and review complaints filed by citizens against SCPD Officers.
  • Helped create and coordinate the Emergency Communications Committee that worked with ambulance, fire, law enforcement, and rescue for standardized emergency responses and communications.
  • Created the St. Cloud Police Department Chaplain Department
  • Implemented D.A.R.E. and later the School Resource Officer Program
  • Implemented the St. Cloud Crime Free Multi-Housing Program
  • Created the St. Cloud Police Department Bicycle Program
  • Hired the Department’s first Crime Scene Specialist
  • Wrote the Back-the-Badge grant to provide bullet-proof vests for Police Officers
  • Created the SCPD Swat Team

A special memory for Dennis during his time in Minnesota was the Black Bear hunt. His Assistant Chief Rich Wilson took Dennis to the Wilson homestead in the northern Lake Vermillion area. Dennis came home with a big black bear that is mounted in his cabin. Dennis did tell us stories about that adventure! His great grandsons call him "the bear"

Dennis will be forever missed by his wife of 57 years, Janet (Behm) O’Keefe; his favorite daughter and her husband: Kelly and Troy Nashleanas of Hinton, IA and their children:  Dr. Ashley Nashleanas, Dr. Benjamin and Keshia Nashleanas and their children:  Nolan, Colby, and Liam; his other favorite daughter and her husband:  Katie and Jeff Altenburg of Chaska, MN and their children:  United States Army Specialist Karl and his wife Nicole, Ian and Ireland Altenburg; his son United States Army Lieutenant Colonel James O’Keefe and his wife Adriana of Charlotte, NC and sons:  United States Air Force Airman First Class Jett O’Keefe, James O’Keefe Jr., and Declan O’Keefe; his son Shawn and his wife Kristi O’Keefe of Blaine, MN and their children:  Kenzie, Owen, and Keegan O'Keefe; his sisters: Colleen Conley, Judy (Roger) Huot, Sharon Harrison; nieces and nephews:  Luanne (Jim) Flikkema, Jim (Doris) Conley, Ed (Missy) Conley, David Huot, Diane Meehl, Tom (Barb) Huot, Mark Huot, Bob (Jenn) Harrison, Mike (Phi) Harrison, Julie Lindsenmeyer, Lori (Dennis) Pick; sister-in-law:  Karen (Neal) Smout, Teresa Behm; brothers-in-law:  Bob (Kim) Behm, Rick (Teri) Behm, Randy (Anne) Behm, Chuck (Kelli) Behm.

He was preceded in death by his parents, James and Delores O’Keefe, brother-in-law Edwin Conley and nephew Tim Conley, brother-in-law Wayne Harrison, and brother-in-law Roger Behm.

In Lieu of Flowers, Memorials may be directed to the Dennis O’Keefe family who will be gifting the Police Department with a plaque and bullet-proof vests. 

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11:00 A.M. Saturday, February 18, 2023 at St. Michael’s Catholic Church with Father David Hemann celebrating.  Visitation with the family will be Friday, February 17, 2023 from 5:00-7:00 P.M. with a Vigil Service at 7:00 P.M. at Meyer Brothers Colonial Chapel.  Burial will be at a later date at Calvary Cemetery.  Online condolences may be given at www.meyerbroschapels.com

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dennis Michael O'Keefe, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

St. Michael's Catholic Church

1405 1st Ave, South Sioux City, NE 68776

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