January 3, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 37

Mike McKeehan: A caring, passionate person friends, family said

Mike McKeehan was a Cheneyite through and through. He moved here with his family at the age of 13. Last week he died here at the age of 67 after 14 years as a City Council member, 30 years as a teacher in Cheney schools, impacting countless lives in the process.

Family and friends described McKeehan as a kind man who was quietly generous. He didn’t make a big deal about his service to the community.

“He was always giving of everything, and never seemed to think twice about it,” said Patrick McKeehan, one of four children Mike McKeehan and wife Judy raised together.

His father, who Patrick described as his best friend, died in his home July 19 from complications from a lung disease. McKeehan had been living with health problems for several years, but the more recent issue with his lungs brought an imminent threat.

Patrick said doctors told the family the disease would either progress slowly or take an aggressive form and move quickly.

“All of us were putting our money on option one and refusing to contemplate option 2,” he said.

McKeehan had been feeling poorly for the past couple of months, Patrick McKeehan said, but when the family got together for a reunion in LaPush, Wash. in mid-July, Patrick said his father was “his old self.”

“Rewind five years to before he had these health problems. It was the happiest I’ve seen him in years,” he said. “He absolutely lived for his family.”

Besides his family, McKeehan had a passion for education.

McKeehan graduated from Cheney High School in 1962, then spent the next several years pursuing higher education, eventually earning a Ph.D. in history of education. He then returned to Cheney to teach at Salnave, Reid and Betz elementary schools as well as Cheney Junior High School.

Sue Chamberlin worked with McKeehan at Betz.

“Mike was a real caring person. I’m sure that came across to students because it came across to other people,” she said. “He cared a lot about his students and that was important to them, to have a teacher that took interest in them.”

Mike was also a fun person to work with, Chamberlin said.

“We always had a little rivalry that we went through because I was a WSU grad and he loved the UW Huskies,” she said, laughing at the memory.

Every year the two would bet Cougar cheese and smoked salmon on the Apple Cup winner.

Chamberlin said she would remember McKeehan for his attentiveness and concern for others.

“Mike was like—I don’t know if ‘big brother’ is the right word to say—but he always checked in to make sure if I was okay,” she said. “He was just a caring, caring person.”

McKeehan also had a passion for politics, and he served as a Cheney Planning Commissioner and later as City Council member starting in 1998.

“He just always loved politics and he wanted to serve the city,” Patrick McKeehan said. “He loved Cheney. There wasn’t a better place on earth according to him.”

A memorial service for McKeehan was held Sunday, July 22. The family asks that memorial contributions be sent to the Cheney School District Haas Foundation, care of Jim Missel, in remembrance of P. Michael McKeehan.

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