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​​1923. Jeremiah J. O'Keefe is born in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 1940. Ray Loewen is born in the rural community of Steinbach, in the province of Manitoba, Canada. 1942. Jeremiah O'Keefe enlists in the military weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. 1943. Jeremiah O'Keefe receives his aviator wings from the U.S. Marines. He is assigned to the VMF-323 squadron, which is nicknamed the "Death Rattlers". 1944. Jeremiah O'Keefe marries Rose Annette Saxon. 1945. April. During his first combat mission, a patrol flight to protect American ships near Okinawa, O'Keefe's 24-plane squadron of F4U-ID Corsairs encounters 80 Japanese kamikaze dive bombers. O'Keefe downs five enemy airplanes, becoming an "ace" pilot in a single day. O'Keefe down two more kamikaze planes later the same week. 1946 - 1948 O'Keefe attends Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he is requested to head a business fraternity. Upon learning that its bylaws discriminate against Blacks and Jews, he demands that the bylaws be revised as a condition of serving. The bylaws are changed and he serves, graduating in 1953 with a degree in Business Administration and returns to Biloxi to join his father's funeral business. 1947. Willie Gary is born in Eastman, Georgia. 1953 O'Keefe buys O'Keefe Funeral Homes from his father. 1958. Jeremiah O'Keefe buys the Bradford Funeral Home in Biloxi, Mississippi, forming the Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Homes. Later the same year, Jeremiah and Annette O'Keefe create the Gulf National Life Insurance Company, which would eventually become the largest seller of industrial life and burial insurance policies in the state. 1959. Jeremiah O'Keefe elected to one term in the Mississippi State Legislature.

1920s  - 1950s

1973. Jeremiah O'Keefe elected to first of two terms as Mayor of Biloxi. 1974. O'Keefe's insurance company--Gulf National Life Insurance--purchases the exclusive right to sell burial insurance through Wright & Ferguson Funeral Home in Jackson, Miss. 1974. Willie Gary graduates from North Carolina Central University Law School. 1975. Ray Loewen elected to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. He serves until 1979. 1976. O'Keefe, as Mayor, has a contentious standoff with the Klu Klux Klan over a parade permit. The Klan subsequently burns a cross on the lawn of his home and vandalizes his mayor's office. 1987. Loewen markedly ramps up its acquisition strategy, entering the US market and tripling the number of funeral homes owned--from 20 to 68--between 1984 and 1987. 1989. Jeffrey O'Keefe enters into agreement to purchase Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Homes, Inc.

1960s - 1980s

1990. The Loewen Group doubles the size of its holdings in a single year through the purchase of 137 funeral homes. The following year, the Loewen Group would add 97 more homes. 1990. The Loewen Group purchases the Riemann funeral homes on the Gulf Coast and later the Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home in Jackson. It begins selling its burial insurance policies through Wright & Ferguson. 1991. O'Keefe files a lawsuit against Loewen alleging interference with his exclusive sales contract with Wright & Ferguson. 1991. August. O'Keefe and Loewen reach an agreement to settle their commercial disputes. Under the agreement, Loewen would have purchased three funeral homes from O'Keefe, and O'Keefe would have bought an insurance company from Loewen. 1992. O'Keefe amends his complaint to add claims of fraud and violations of Mississippi antitrust law. 1994. January 1. NAFTA comes into effect. 1994. Massachusetts Attorney General brings antitrust action against the Loewen Group for alleged monopolistic practices on Cape Cod. The Loewen Group reaches a settlement with the state. [Source: The Boston Business Journal, December 9, 1994] 1995. The Loewen Group is the second-largest and fastest-growing consolidator in the North American funeral home industry. The Company employs approximately 10,000 people and owns and operates 791 funeral homes and 180 cemeteries in the United States and Canada. Analysts note that it is "flush with capital" and recommend it as a "top-tier growth stock" that offers "open-ended growth that provides superior stock price appreciation." [Source: The Greater Cincinnati Business Record, July 17, 1995]. 1995. September. Civil trial of O'Keefe v. Loewen Group begins in Hinds County Circuit Court in Jackson, Mississippi. 1995. November. Jury awards a verdict to O'Keefe of $500 million--the largest in Mississippi history. The figure represented $100 million in compensatory damages and $400 million in punitive damages. In Mississippi, a losing defendant who wishes to stay execution of the judgment pending appeal must post a bond for 125% of their judgment, although the bond could be reduced for "good cause." 1995. Standard & Poor's Ratings Group revised its ratings outlook on Loewen Group to "negative" from "positive", citing uncertainty resulting from the damage award. Loewen's share price falls $8.17 on Nasdaq, losing 20% of its value. [Source: Wall Street Journal, November 6, 1995]. 1996. January. Mississippi Supreme Court denies Loewen's application to reduce the bond. Loewen Group hints that it may consider bankruptcy rather than find financing for a $625 million bond that would be required in order to appeal the award. Loewen Group's share price, at a high of $41.25 prior to the trial, stands at $24.31. [Source: Wall Street Journal, January 25th, 1996.] 1996. Loewen Group settles with O'Keefe et al for a nominal amount of $175 million. The company estimates that the after-tax value of the settlement will be $85 million, as it is structured as $50 million in cash, 1.5 million shares of common stock, and a promissory note providing payments of $4 million per year for 20 years. Analysts note that Loewen Group was then carrying a high debt-to-equity ratio of 1.25-to-1.00, rather than the 1-to-1 ratio sought by most companies. [Source: The Gazette of Montreal, January 30, 1996]. 1996. Jeremiah and Annette O'Keefe establish an O'Keefe family foundation. The foundation's mission is to support the arts, minorities, Catholic charities, and activities that support mental health. 1996. US funeral conglomerate Service Corp.—the largest provider of death services in North America—mounts a multibillion-dollar takeover bid for Loewen Group, the second-largest provider. Ray Loewen rejects the offer and refuses to negotiate. The prospect of the deal attracts antitrust concerns from federal and state officials. 1996. Loewen Group collaborates with The Blackstone Group for financing to purchase Prime Succession, the biggest privately-owned funeral business in the US, for $295 million. [Source: The Financial Times, June 18, 1996]. 1996. Loewen Group announces "miraculous recovery" from the lawsuit and posts a record profit of $19.5 million for the second quarter. It announces that it has bought 83 funeral homes, 58 cemeteries and two insurance companies totalling about $362 million, and signed agreements to buy 63 more funeral homes and 55 cemeteries for an estimated $200 million. [Source: Wire feed of Canadian Press Enterprises, August 7, 1996]. 1996. Loewen Group buys more than $240 million of funeral homes in California and Pennsylvania. [Source: Canada AM--CTV Television, September 30, 1996]. 1997. Service Corp withdraws its $45-per-share takeover offer, worth $2.9 billion, after concluding that Ray Loewen, who controlled about 20% of the company, had created too many roadblocks to the deal. [Source: Wall Street Journal, January 8, 1997]. 1998. Rose Annette O'Keefe dies at the age of 74. In her memory, Jeremiah O'Keefe and family make a substantial contribution to the George Ohr Museum and he assumes lead fundraising responsibilities for the museum. The museum is later renamed The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum in honor of Mrs. O'Keefe. 1998. Ray Loewen resigns as president and CEO of The Loewen Group. 1998. November. Loewen files a claim under NAFTA Chapter 11, contesting the case and seeking $175 million from the US government -- the amount it contends it was forced to settle upon with the plaintiff. 1999. Loewen Group goes into bankruptcy. 1999. Jeremiah O'Keefe marries Martha Peterson. 2002. The Loewen Group is restructured as The Alderwoods Group. 2015. Jeremiah O'Keefe is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award given by Congress. The medal is presented in a ceremony in Ocean Springs, Miss, and the occasion also marks the 150th anniversary of the O’Keefe family business on the Gulf Coast. 2016. Jeremiah J. O'Keefe dies at the age of 93.


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