After working as an engineer for more than two decades, Robert Keane was looking for a change.
"I wanted to do something I thought was significant," Keane told the Star Tribune in 1982.
At age 49, Keane made a profound career change. He entered the Sacred Heart School of Theology in Milwaukee, and in 1978 was ordained a diocesan priest. He spent the next four decades serving others as a Catholic priest.
Keane died of natural causes at his Minneapolis home on July 6. He was 95.
"Unquestionably, I think that his life experiences made him a better priest," said his nephew Tim Keane. "He had the benefit of maturity and wisdom. He had a sense of how the world worked. He took assignments based on how and where he could best serve."
After being ordained, Keane's first assignment was as an associate at St. Stephen's Catholic Church in south Minneapolis. Keane and the Rev. Ed Flahavan led the church's efforts to serve free meals in the church's school basement and provide social services to the neighborhood.
Those efforts evolved into Loaves and Fishes, which was incorporated as a Minneapolis nonprofit in 1982.
"[Keane] said of all his assignments, he enjoyed St. Stephen the most," said his nephew. "It was about a mile from where he grew up in south Minneapolis. It was a poor neighborhood, and he enjoyed working there for three years."
In 1982, Keane became pastor of the 6,000-member St. Edward's in west Bloomington. During his career, he also served about a dozen parishes in the Twin Cities — including Annunciation, Holy Name and St. Helena in Minneapolis, St. Mark in St. Paul and St. William in Fridley.
Father Rodger Bauman, who worked with Keane at St. Edwards, said, "He was very pastoral. His heart was with the poor and marginalized. He brought pragmatism to the job. He was practical, bright and intelligent. I appreciate my time with him very much."
Keane was born to Maurice and Agnes Keane on Oct. 1, 1924, in Minneapolis. The third of five children, he was raised in Minneapolis. He attended Holy Rosary Parish School before graduating from Minneapolis South High School in 1942. At South, he was on the staff of the school newspaper and on the boxing team.
He served in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II as a radio ensign about the USS Teton, an amphibious force command ship.
After his service, he returned to the Twin Cities and earned a degree in physics and mathematics from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
He went to work for Honeywell in 1949. He was an engineer and plant supervisor for 24 years.
"After college he started working at thermostat plants," Tim Keane said. "By the time he left Honeywell, he was working on complex defense systems from Honeywell's defense contracts with the government."
After retiring in 1994, he served as parochial administrator to two parishes in Richfield — St. Peter and St. Richard. He continued to celebrate mass and officiate ceremonies at several parishes until 2011.
"We got into a routine," said his nephew. "After retiring, he was still conducting mass and I would go and then afterward, we'd meet for breakfast. For 13 years we did this. I have an appreciation from being able to spend the time with him. He stood out to me as one of the most remarkable people I've known."
In addition to nephew Tim Keane, he is survived by many other extended family members.
Services have been held.