TOM KEOGH WROTE two fantastic cover stories for Pacific NW magazine this year. Both were informative, interesting, entertaining — and meticulously researched, of course. Tom delivered profiles on Theodore Roethke, the late, great Pulitzer Prize-winning poet from Seattle, and Nancy Bristow, a brilliant University of Puget Sound professor and author.
Over about 20 years, he wrote nearly 1,500 stories for The Seattle Times about theater, books, movies, TV, music — anything a features writer could cover, actually, and then some. He wrote professionally about the arts and much more for more than 40 years.
He was about to start a third magazine story this summer but called, dejectedly, to tell me he wouldn’t be able to write about Seattle-born architect Minoru Yamasaki, because he had to have eye surgery. No problem, Tom, I told him; we’ll take care of it, and you’ll do another story later. Great, he said. Couldn’t wait to get back to it.
During the surgery prep, on July 20, Tom’s heart stopped four times, and he was revived four times. In the days following, Tom told his son, Kevin, and his partner, Marni Wiebe-Keogh, that he was a new person, that the old Tom was “quite literally dead,” that frustration and stubbornness were things of the past. “He had this new lease on life,” Kevin says. “It sprang from … his desire to live.”
Marni says it wasn’t about making amends, but about “living fully, and in the present, and doing right by the world.”
He spent the next couple of months in a hospital, in rehab, then at home with family — Kevin; Marni; and their beloved dog, Lucy.
They talked about life, death, new starts and hope. In September, Tom tearfully confided in Kevin and Marni his fear that if he died, no one would remember him.
Kevin was sad. Crushed, actually.
“Your community loves you. You are a strong voice,” he told his dad. “Everyone will remember you.”
“How could they not?” Marni asked Tom.
Tom was told that if a medicine he had just started taking worked, he could live another year, maybe as many as 10. Four days later, on Sept. 28, he suffered another heart attack.
More than a dozen friends of the family gathered late at night in the front yard of his Edmonds home while paramedics worked on him. “I’ll never forget this,” Marni says. “Seeing those people, in the glow of the porch light, an arc of people keeping vigil and waiting. It was so remarkable.”
Tom couldn’t be revived this time. He was 68 years old.
“He walked a hero’s walk those last nine weeks,” Marni says. “I have so much admiration for him, in how he moved through that. He rose above that physical challenge in so many ways. He battled every step of the way. He was winning. Until he wasn’t.”
Melissa Davis, the Times’ PM news desk chief and Page One editor, met Tom more than a decade ago, when she worked in our Features department.
“Tom could talk to anybody about passion for art,” Davis says. “He knew the arts sphere here is something special and worth sharing. Across it all, he was not just knowledgeable but collegial and curious and really funny.”
Moira Macdonald, our arts critic, worked with Tom for many years, predating their Seattle Times days. She says, “He was a wonderful colleague — generous with his time, knowledgeable and passionate about movies, with a genuine sense of wonder when something thrilled him — and a lovely man.”
Marni describes Tom as a “lifelong learner.” The term “gentleman and a scholar” is an overused one. But it describes perfectly our friend Tom Keogh. We’ll miss him and, of course, we’ll remember him. Tom is survived by his partner, Marni; their son, Kevin; sister Jodi Keogh; brother Dakota Keogh; and nieces Amanda, Eden, Adrienne and Megan.
A celebration of Tom’s life will be held in the spring.