uuworld.org: liberal religion and life

Frederick Lawrence Keefe (1915-2004)

A brief biography of the author of The Investigating Officer.
By Barbara W. Carlson
Winter 2005 11.1.05

Printer friendly version


Education: B.A. 1937 from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut. Major: English, with high distinction.

Career: Editor for The New Yorker; wrote short stories, Talk of the Town pieces. Author of a novel, The Investigating Officer, and short story collection, The Bicycle Rider.

War service: Captain in U.S. Army in World War II, intelligence staff officer with 492nd armored field artillery battalion. On occupation duty in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Germany.

Religious activity: Member, Shoreline Unitarian Universalist Society, Madison, Connecticut, and the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches, Florida. With his life partner, Don Gregory, he was instrumental in having Shoreline become a Welcoming Congregation. He wrote plays for Shoreline that were performed as Sunday-service programs. Having no family and predeceased by Don, Fred left his entire estate in equal shares to the two churches. In a letter to a Shoreline member, he said of the congregation, “You are my family.”

The friend we knew: He liked to garden. He wrote poems for himself and friends. On visiting a fellow Shoreline member, seeing her garden and learning that daylilies bloom for just a day, he wrote this poem for her:


What do the daylilies do at night
While the rest of the world is sleeping tight?
They leap out of the ground,
And they frolic around;
They kick up their heels,
And they turn cartwheels.
That’s what the daylilies do at night.

What do they do when the day has fled,
And people like us have gone to bed?
They run down to the park
Hand in hand in the dark
Fall down on the grass
And make love en masse
That’s what they do when the day has fled.

Pray do not scorn this happy flower
That makes the most of every hour.
You, too, would dance the night away
Knowing you’d bloom for but a day.

more spirit
more ideas
more life