Mike Keefe was born November 6, 1946 in Santa Rosa, California. He had two sisters and a brother. They lived in the San Francisco Bay area until Keefe was in second grade when they moved to St. Louis, MO, where Keefe graduated from Ritenour High School in 1964.
His brother died at age two and a half, devastating his mom and forcing his father, Ray Keefe, to find ways to care for her while earning a living. Running out of resources, he took the family back to California to be closer to other family. It didn’t work. The Keefe family fell apart. Mike, at age 17, was on his own and started wandering. Mike’s two sisters were put in foster homes. He lost contact with his family for years. His father cared for his wife until she died in 1971. Ray died in 1980.
Keefe hitchhiked across America for a couple of years, worked for a year at the Chevrolet plant in Leeds, a suburb of Kansas City and then was drafted into the Marine Corps. After his discharge, using the GI Bill, he went to the Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) and earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s and completed the coursework for a PhD in mathematics.
Of all the turmoil during the early1970s, the killing of four unarmed students at Kent State University in Ohio by the Ohio National Guard affected Keefe the most. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds in 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others.
During this time, while studying at UMKC, Keefe started drawing cartoons for the University News. He became friends with Bill Sanders, cartoonist at The Milwaukee Journal. Sanders heard that Pat Oliphant, editorial cartoonist for The Denver Post, had taken a new job. He wrote a referral letter about Keefe to the Post who hired him in 1975. At that point he had drawn about 50 cartoons.
Since then, Keefe has won many awards including the Fischetti Editorial Cartoon Award, National Headliners Club, Society of Professional Journalists and Best of the West contests. He was a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University (studied short story writing) and is a past president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. He was a juror for the 1997 and 1998 Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011.
He retired in late 2011 from The Denver Post after 36 years. The Keefes lived in Evergreen Meadows from 1993-2007 for a number of years before moving to Denver.
For more of Charles McNamara's interview with Mike Keefe, go to Tributary.
Chas McNamara was the owner of McNamara Publishing based in Evergreen in the 1980s when he also published the Mountain Commuter, a monthly newsmagazine about life in Evergreen. He is a former president of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce and publisher of Vail Magazine/Beaver Creek Magazine. He currently uses his journalist’s story-telling approach to breathe life into marketing communications through his company Brand Journalism.