My name is Kim O’Keefe-Wilkins and I want to tell you about the most amazing, beautiful and brightest woman I have ever known, my mother, Patricia J. Albright, who passed away on January 11, 2022, during a brief stay at the McGraw Hospice Center in Jacksonville, Florida. My mother was born on December 3, 1924 to parents Wallace and Louise Johnson in Buffalo, New York. Mom received a full scholarship to the University at Buffalo after graduating from high school, however, my grandfather thought it best for her to go to work. And the work she’s done, all her life.
My father, Raymond J. O’Keffe, surprised her on Christmas Eve 1945, having just returned from World War II with an engagement ring. Overjoyed, she obviously said yes and they were married on July 4, 1946. Shortly after their wedding, they moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where there was no chance of snow or blizzard. Thirteen years after their marriage, I was born and would be their only child. In 965 my parents moved to Tallahassee with the state government and the Department of Education. My mother worked as an administrative assistant to the Commissioner of Education and became the first female assistant to the Cabinet. She was the first woman to wear a pantsuit at the Capitol and by the next day all women working at the Capitol wore pants. Such a trendsetter. Our lives were idyllic, happy and full of love, until my father passed away suddenly in 1971. She had lost her high school sweetheart and the days, weeks, months that followed would be difficult for both of us.
Sometime later, mom met the second love of her life, Donald G. Albright, and they were married on July 13, 1973, in the rotunda of the Florida Supreme Court by Chief Justice BK Roberts. Mom and Don had so much fun together. They bought sailboats, owned a house on the Econfina River, then the Ochlockonee River, traveled Europe several times, sometimes me in tow. Mom retired from the state after spending 30 years there. Not one to slow down, she bought a little shop, called The Needleworks, and walking into that shop every morning was the highlight of her day. It became a Mecca for people who wanted to learn how to knit, crochet, do embroidery and cross stitch. She taught hundreds of women to knit. She designed her own sweaters and being a brilliant and talented seamstress, everything she created was beautiful. When my family moved to Jacksonville in 1987, my parents bought an RV so they could travel on weekends to see us. Eventually the distance became too great and they sold The Needleworks, their homes and moved to Jacksonville. Mom and Don were so special to us and we were so grateful to have them close. They were eager to babysit our sons whenever we needed them. They put the kids in the motorhome, but it was their dogs and a few cats. This motorhome would become their vacation vehicle, traveling along the coast to Maine and Nova Scotia, parking on the ocean and eating lobster rolls every day. Now retired, my parents spent their days doing exactly what they wanted. Truthful readers, avid birdwatchers, lovers of classical music and the symphony and spending time with us. Mom loved nature, all animals (especially her Pomeranians), adored music, architecture and the arts. She loved language, words and color, lots of colors. Beige did not exist in his world! She was a fabulous cook, made the best pies and there was no better fried chicken anywhere. In 2000, Don passed away after a brief illness. Even with this unexpected loss, Mom carried on with her life, her positive attitude and her pure love for life, love for the four of us.
I met my husband, Ron Wilkins, when we were 16, so my parents knew my husband almost as long as they knew me. Our sons, Patrick Wilkins (Jacksonville, FL) and Christopher Wilkins (Asheville, NC) were the lights of their lives. She found such joy in watching our boys grow, mature and become men. Christopher’s partner, Rachel Goodman, was so sweet to my mum and mum enjoyed getting to know her, however, Oliver O’Keefe Wilkins, their son born last June, was the spark that always brought smiles. She was absolutely in love with him and I thank God she was able to meet and hold Oliver. At the very end, a mention of Oliver raised her eyebrows and made her smile. My family was the very center of everything my parents lived for and for that I will be forever grateful. Everything good about me is a direct result of my mother. I will miss her immensely but I know she had great loves, great happiness accompanied by great sadness and I have only exceptionally fond and fond memories of this woman who was in love with life. We will celebrate his life on Saturday, April 9, 2022 at Resurrection Catholic Church with interment in Tallahassee at Roselawn Cemetery.
Posted on March 04, 2022
Published in Florida Times Union