Jerry O'Keefe was born on July 12, 1923, in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He joined the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Navy in June 1942, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Marine Corps and designated a Naval Aviator on June 16, 1943. He joined VMF-323, the Death Rattlers, in August 1943 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, and moved with the squadron to NAAS El Centro, California, in January 1944, and to Hawaii in July 1944. Lt O'Keefe then deployed with the squadron to the Southwest Pacific in September 1944, and to Okinawa, during the Battle of Okinawa, in April 1945. He became an ace in a day when he shot down 5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat over Okinawa on April 22, 1945, adding 2 more victories for a total of 7 on April 28. Lt O'keefe returned to the U.S. in June 1945, and left active duty at the end of the war in September 1945. After the war, he graduated from Loyola University with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration in 1948, and later bought his father's funeral home business in 1953, which became the Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Home in Biloxi, Mississippi. Jerry served as a Mississippi State Legislator from 1960 to 1964, and was Mayor of Biloxi from 1973 to 1981. He and his wife Annette Saxon O'Keefe had 13 children together and lived in Biloxi until her death on May 16, 1998. Jerry married Martha Peterson on July 27, 1999, and they were married until his death on August 23, 2016. Jerry O'Keefe was buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Jeremiah Joseph O'Keefe, First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Section Leader and a Pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron THREE HUNDRED TWENTY-THREE (VMF-323), Marine Air Group THIRTY-THREE (MAG-33), FOURTH Marine Aircraft Wing, in aerial combat against enemy Japanese forces during the assault on Okinawa Shima, Ryukyu Islands, on 22 April 1945. Fighting his plane aggressively in two engagements against a total of more than fifty Japanese suicide dive bombers, First Lieutenant O'Keefe pressed home a series of bold attacks in the face of hostile fire to destroy five of the enemy aircraft. By his resolute courage, skillful airmanship and devotion to duty, he aided materially in preventing the numerically superior force from reaching its objective, and his gallant conduct throughout reflects the highest credit upon First Lieutenant O'Keefe and the United States Naval Service.