2006.08.10: August 10, 2006: Headlines: COS - Venezuela: Plumbing: small Business: Danvers Herald: Venezuela RPCV Larry O’Keefe is plumbing contractor

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Venezuela: Peace Corps Venezuela : The Peace Corps in Venezuela: 2006.08.10: August 10, 2006: Headlines: COS - Venezuela: Plumbing: small Business: Danvers Herald: Venezuela RPCV Larry O’Keefe is plumbing contractor

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-250-73-144.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.250.73.144) on Friday, August 18, 2006 - 9:54 am: Edit Post

Venezuela RPCV Larry O’Keefe is plumbing contractor

Venezuela RPCV Larry O’Keefe  is plumbing contractor

"I went back into construction because that’s where I could make the most money," he says. "I also took the law boards and almost went to Suffolk. Instead, I went into the Peace Corps." O’Keefe had reasoned that all he had ever done in his life was go to school and work. The Peace Corps sounded like a way for him to do the traveling he couldn’t afford and also to do some good for others. A hiker who was also interested in mountain climbing, O’Keefe asked for a posting to Nepal as a first choice and Africa next. "I went to Venezuela," says O’Keefe, smiling. He was sent to the foothills of the Andes Mountains. "Our group was unique; all 17 of us had business degrees. We were supposed to try to open marketing channels between artists and retail outlets." After training for two months in Puerto Rico, where he was steeped in the Spanish language, and a month in Caracas, O’Keefe was given a bus ticket, and he headed to San Cristobal on his own. "I rode with the chickens and the pigs," he laughs.

Venezuela RPCV Larry O’Keefe is plumbing contractor

Piping systems present interesting challenges

By Myrna Fearer/ MFEARER@CNC.COM

Thursday, August 10, 2006 - Updated: 02:36 PM EST

Name: Larry O’Keefe

Occupation: Plumbing contractor

Address: O’Keefe Plumbing and Heating Inc., 5A Hutchinson Drive

Years of experience: 30

Age: 57

Goal: To keep growing and see his sons take the business to a higher level.

Larry O’Keefe once had aspirations of becoming an engineer, but after several interesting career changes, he’s now a plumbing contractor and owner of O’Keefe Pluming and Heating Inc.

"We started out as residential," O’Keefe says. "As the biotech industry grew, it became a big percentage of what we do."

Places that depend on piping systems - such as hospitals, biotech pharmaceuticals and other companies that support labs - are high on the agenda, so it isn’t surprising that Biogen, Genzyme, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts General Hospital would be among the firm’s steady customers.

Doing the design work on the piping systems for the labs that meet all FDA (Food and Drug Administration) requirements is something O’Keefe particularly enjoys, and with today’s modern technology, estimating the cost of these projects is no longer a time-consuming chore. What used to take several days can be accomplished in hours, thanks to the estimator.

One thing that’s pretty obvious about O’Keefe is his work ethic. A product of the Everett Schools, he’s a 1967 graduate of Everett High School and went on to Northeastern University, putting himself through school. Summers, O’Keefe worked at the gas company nights and did construction jobs during the day to pay for his education. He also worked nights and weekends while attending classes. Northeastern’s cooperative plan was a big help toward helping him fund his education.

O’Keefe, who decided to change majors, earned a bachelor’s degree in business in 1973.

"I went back into construction because that’s where I could make the most money," he says. "I also took the law boards and almost went to Suffolk. Instead, I went into the Peace Corps."

O’Keefe had reasoned that all he had ever done in his life was go to school and work. The Peace Corps sounded like a way for him to do the traveling he couldn’t afford and also to do some good for others. A hiker who was also interested in mountain climbing, O’Keefe asked for a posting to Nepal as a first choice and Africa next.

"I went to Venezuela," says O’Keefe, smiling. He was sent to the foothills of the Andes Mountains. "Our group was unique; all 17 of us had business degrees. We were supposed to try to open marketing channels between artists and retail outlets."

After training for two months in Puerto Rico, where he was steeped in the Spanish language, and a month in Caracas, O’Keefe was given a bus ticket, and he headed to San Cristobal on his own.

"I rode with the chickens and the pigs," he laughs.

But, in the two and a half years he was there, O’Keefe feels he made a difference. At first, it was with the people who had their own cottage industries, making pottery and other things in their meager quarters. O’Keefe was trying to get them more money and raise their standard of living, that is, until the government changed after he was there for six months and it was back to the old system where the artisans got very little for their work while those in charge made the big profits.

He and his colleagues refused to work under this system, and the program was disbanded. Left alone, O’Keefe created his own projects. Using his past skills, he helped the people with construction and also taught English. He even managed to get a projector and movies from the embassy, which he showed for what became his new friends. After two years doing what the Peace Corps termed community development, O’Keefe returned home when his dad became seriously ill.

After his Peace Corps experience, O’Keefe went into a partnership doing solar heating, which was very popular in the mid-70s.

"The solar business was going very well until the government started taking away the incentives," O’Keefe says. "The oil companies started taking over and I began doing more heating work. I also got into plumbing. In 1980, I went out on my own."

It was also the year he and his wife, Gail, from Malden, were married. She was an assistant manager at Moran Terminal in Charlestown. Fifteen years ago, the young family moved to Danvers, where they’ve raised three sons: Michael, 24, graduated from Southern University in New Hampshire; Adam, 23, is a Roger Williams graduate; and Corey, 21, graduated with honors from North Shore Tech and is in food preparation at a nursing home. The older two sons have joined their dad in the business and they are paying their dues, learning it from the bottom up.

Larry and Gail O’Keefe have always been involved parents. Larry has coached baseball and hockey. Gail had been active with the Danvers High School Hockey Boosters and both O’Keefes are immersed in the Special Olympics. Larry coaches Corey, who has Down Syndrome, in golf and power lifting. Corey, who has won gold medals in the regional competition, recently won four silver medals in the nationals and will be playing in upcoming golf competitions.

He and his dad were a team at one time, until Corey outplayed his dad and now enters on his own. Gail and Larry O’Keefe started the Essex Area Golf Team for Special Olympics and the couple helped found the Friends of Special Olympics, a committee of eight involved with soccer, basketball, track and field, power lifting and golf.

O’Keefe Plumbing and Heating first opened its doors in Malden, where Larry O’Keefe’s customer base was mostly residential. Eight years ago, he relocated to 5A Hutchinson Drive.

"I did a lot of repair work at first," O’Keefe says. "I did whatever I had to do to put food on the table."

About 20 years ago, he did a job at Biogen and as the biotechnical industry grew, so did O’Keefe’s involvement, making that segment of the business the largest. He also has a residential division and has a lot of calls from schools.

I’m doing an addition on a hockey rink at Pingree," he says. "I have three lab projects going on, I do schools and hospitals, any place that wants quality work. The one thing I don’t do is multi-residential properties like condo complexes."

Looking back at the circuitous route his life took, O’Keefe says he has no regrets with his decision.

"I could always say, what if, but I do enjoy the plumbing industry," he says. "I’ve enjoyed the challenges, especially in the biotech area, and the design work. Engineering is what I started with; I guess it never left my blood."






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Story Source: Danvers Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Venezuela; Plumbing; small Business

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