Jeremiah Joseph “Jerry” O’Keefe III was an American World War II veteran and decorated fighter pilot ace. He was philanthropic, respected by his community, and beloved by his wife and 13 children.
On August 23, 2016, Jerry O’Keefe passed away at the age of 93. While his funeral was emotional, heartfelt and attended by veterans, loved ones and admirers alike, it was a simple act during the procession — by a complete stranger — that went viral.
As the funeral procession winded its way through the streets of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, the O’Keefe family looked out the window and noticed a little boy standing barefoot on the roadside, hand over his heart, in the pouring rain.
He was also a caring philanthropist, and served as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives.
From 1973 to 1981, he was the mayor of Biloxi, Mississippi.
O’Keefe and his wife, Annette, had 13 children. According to Wikipedia, the O’Keefe family has a fondness for Southern cooking and story-telling which inspired their publication of a family cookbook in 1994.
Annette died in 1998. O’Keefe eventually remarried a woman named Martha.
Jeremiah Joseph O’Keefe passed away on August 23, 2016 at the age of 93.
The O’Keefe family and community of Biloxi pulled out all the stops for the patriarch’s funeral. There were veterans in uniform, bagpipes by his grave and many heartfelt eulogies.
Following the funeral, the family began the procession.
As the procession — horse-drawn hearse and all — made its way into Ocean Springs, Mississippi, the O’Keefe family spotted a little boy on the side of the road. He was barefoot in the rain, holding his hand over his heart.
This unnamed boy — who had never met Jerry O’Keefe but knew who he was and how important he was to the community — stood in the same position for 30 minutes until the entire funeral procession passed. A member of the procession snapped the photo above.
The O’Keefe family was so touched by this boy’s gesture that they shared the photo on Facebook, asking if anyone could identify him.
The post went viral.
The little boy was identified as 9-year-old Kaiden Wade.
That day, Kaiden and his dad were visiting his sick grandmother. She mentioned the funeral procession would be passing by her house, but not for a while. Without hesitation, Kaiden headed to the corner of the street and waited, despite the rain, despite his bare feet.
Cecilia, one of Jerry O’Keefe’s daughters, says the image of Kaiden standing in the rain will always be etched into her memory.
She saw her father in Kaiden. “This young fellow was the symbolism for the youth and vitality that was so present in my Dad,” she said.