2019 “Mother of the Year” announced
by the International Mother’s Day Shrine
“I believe the greatest gift is being a mother,” Judge Irene Keeley, 2019 Mother of the Year
GRAFTON—United States District Judge Irene M. Keeley of Clarksburg was unanimously selected by the Board of Trustees of the International Mother’s Day Shrine to be the 2019 “Mother of the Year” honoree. Judge Keeley became a senior status judge on Aug. 12, 2017.
The International Mother’s Day Shrine is where Mother’s Day began on May 10, 1908. The Shrine to all mothers is now one of 16 National Historic Landmarks in West Virginia. Judge Keeley will be honored at the annual Mother’s Day observance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 12.
Keeley and her husband Jack reside in Clarksburg, where they raised three daughters, Reenie, Kate and Meaghan. They are the grandparents of two granddaughters and two grandsons. Keeley was appointed as Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia by President George H.W. Bush on August 12, 1992.
Keeley followed in the footsteps of her father, John Murphy, when she decided to pursue a career in law. Her dad had been a career attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC., where he served as a criminal prosecutor. Born in Brooklyn, NY, Keeley is the oldest of five children born to John and Irene Murphy. She has a sister and three brothers. One brother also entered the law profession. The family moved to the Maryland suburbs when John Murphy went to work for the Justice Department and Keeley grew up in the DC/Maryland area.
Keeley received an undergraduate degree from the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1965 and a master’s degree from WVU in 1979. At WVU, her roommate was Judy Murphy, daughter of Grafton’s Dr. and Mrs. Paul Murphy. While the two roommates shared the family name of Murphy, the two families never determined that they were related to each other.
One wintery February, Judy Murphy asked Irene to go on a blind date with Jack Keeley and as they say, “the rest is history.” Keeley says she still thanks God for bringing her to West Virginia and allowing her to meet and fall in love with Jack Keeley as their marriage has been and continues to be a blessing.
Keeley was influenced by the strong Catholic Christian faith of her family. Her mom was a stay-at-home mom and Judge Keeley calls her an example of hard work. She recalls that the family gathered nightly for dinner once her dad got home from work. Outside activities were not allowed to interfere - there was no going shopping with friends or to the library to do homework until after the family had dinner together. Her mom is now 98 and still going. She says her mom always told her, “You finish the race. There is no quitting.” Having learned from her mom, Keeley now says, “If the going gets tough, you’ve got to get going.”
In addition to her mom, Keeley was also influenced by both her maternal and paternal grandmother. Her mom’s dad died when her mom was 18 and her paternal grandfather is also deceased. Both grandmothers were second generation Irish Americans and never lived outside of Brooklyn. Keeley loved just sitting and listening to the stories each grandmother would tell when the family visited New York or brought one of the grandmothers to her childhood home in Maryland. “We are mothers so we can become grandmothers,” Keeley proudly says now that she has grandchildren ranging roughly ages 5, 7, 8 and 10.
Around age 11, Keeley started babysitting and was delighted when she learned she could charge and make some money with her babysitting services. She also sold candy at the community pool. By the time she was off to college, she still lived at home and worked over the summer months. She turned those earnings over to her parents to help with expenses.
She and Jack were married in 1967 and their first child was born in 1969. Incidentally, daughter Reenie has followed her mom into a career in law and works in Charleston. Keeley had been working as a secondary education teacher in Harrison County. However, she says, “I had always wanted to be an attorney.” She was in the process of getting her master’s degree, and her husband encouraged her to go with her dream and enter law school. “We can do this,” he told her. She said I-79 had just been completed between Clarksburg and Morgantown so that made it a bit easier to travel back and forth between home and school. In her second year of law school, she learned she was expecting her second child and Kate was born the second week of her third year of law school. She said, at the time, it was unusual for the law school to have a pregnant mom as one of the students.
She received her Juris Doctorate degree from the WVU College of Law in 1980. From 1980-1992, she practiced law with Steptoe and Johnson in the areas of litigation and health care. During her second year with the firm, her third daughter was born. Keeley sees no problems with women combining raising a family and having a career. “Being a parent is hard work,” noted Keeley, adding, “it is a 24/7 job.” Commenting on how she views the role of being a mother, Keeley says, “A mother is so many things rolled into one. You must have discipline, compassion, unconditional love.” She credits her faith as being a part of the foundation. She says, “You have to have a glimpse into the soul of God so you can reflect that to your children.” She said when her family didn’t succeed at something, they would simply try again. When they failed, they asked for forgiveness. “I believe the greatest gift is being a mother,” explains Keeley.
She says she could never have accomplished the mix of having a family and pursuing a career without the presence of an intact family. She believes she was blessed not to have to make a choice between family and career. “It’s always a team effort,” is how she explains the key to success of raising a family and having a career. Now that her daughters have children and careers, she says they can get together and laugh about things that happened when her daughters were growing up. “It’s very much a shared experience now,” notes Keeley.
Her husband is now retired. He owned a construction company that performed heavy construction jobs on dams, roads and other projects. During his career, he had to go where the job was, so this involved often being away from home.
At WVU, Keeley was an Associate Editor of the West Virginia Law Review and a member of the Moot Court Board. During her career as a US District Judge, she served as Chief Judge of the Northern District from March 2001 to March 2008. Judge Keeley is a member of the American Bar Association, WV State Bar, and the WV Bar Association. She is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Fellow of the WV Bar Foundation. She is a past chair of the ABA National Conference of Federal Trial Judges. From 2005 to 2007, she served as President of the Federal Judges Association. Later, she served as Chair of the Committee on Criminal Law of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 2013 to 2016. Currently, she is a member of the Budget Committee of the Judicial Conference. She is a former Chair of the Board of Advisors of WVU. In 2003, she was honored with the Order of Vandalia from WVU, and in 2005 she received the Justicia Officium Award from the WVU College of Law.
Keeley is also a cancer survivor. Four months after President Bush appointed her to the Court, she was diagnosed with cancer in 1993. Her oldest daughter was in college and the younger two were still in grade school in fourth and sixth grades. Her treatment, chemo and surgery required a lot of adjustments to both family life and career duties. “I learned to manage it and it became a part of motherhood,” notes Keeley. At the time, she says a lot of women did not talk about a diagnosis of cancer and she tried to change that by giving talks and encouraging networking by those undergoing treatment and living as survivors. Also relying on her Catholic Christian faith, she says she would ask God to watch over, guide and keep her daughters safe.
The public is invited to the annual Mother’s Day observance at the International Mother’s Day Shrine in downtown Grafton. The observance will start at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 12.
Mother’s Day Shrine announces speaker for May 12 observance of Mother’s Day
GRAFTON—The city where Mother’s Day began is preparing for its 111th observance of Mother’s Day at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 12, at the International Mother’s Day Shrine in downtown Grafton.
The Shrine Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that its keynote speaker for 2019 is Internationally known Dr. Noelle Hunter, co-founder and president of the iStand Parent Network Inc.
Dr. Hunter is also the Dean of Student Life at Ohio Valley University, a Christian liberal arts college in Vienna, WV, just outside of Parkersburg. During her decade in higher education, Hunter served as a professor of state and local government, American political institutions, international relations, critical reading, and English composition at West Virginia University, West Virginia Wesleyan College, Morehead State University and Maysville Community & Technical College. Hunter was the Director of College Readiness and an instructor of Developmental Reading at Morehead State University.
Dr. Hunter was appointed by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin to serve as executive director of Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Office of Highway Safety from 2016-2018, the first African-American to serve in that role.
Hunter is president and co-founder of iStand Parent Network Inc., a nonprofit that empowers parents to recover their children from International Parental Child Abduction and advocates for public policy reform that returns children home. In 2014, She recovered her daughter from a nearly three-year abduction to Mali, West Africa, with support and resources from Congress, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Justice and a strong network of supporters. Since 2014, Dr. Hunter has offered testimony at seven congressional hearings and regularly travels to Washington for cause advocacy.
In 2003, Hunter served as the James E. Webb Fellow for the Smithsonian Institution Office of Policy and Analysis and worked in constituent services for the former Sen. Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia. Prior to federal service, Hunter was the Walter Rollins Scholar for the West Virginia Legislature Committee on Health and Human Services and committee staff for the subcommittees on Homeland Security and Bioterrorism; and Workforce, Innovation and the New Economy—responsible for identifying threats and contingency plans to protect West Virginia’s critical infrastructure.
Hunter worked as a media relations executive for Public Communications, Inc. in Chicago and coordinated learning opportunities for underserved, urban youth from 1995-2000. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism in 1994 and a Masters of Public Administration in 2009 from Ohio University. She earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from West Virginia University in 2007. Noelle lives in Vienna, and has three daughters, Rachel, Rysa and Muna.
The Shrine is one of 16 National Historic Landmarks within West Virginia and is where the first Mother’s Day was observed on May 10, 1908.
Mother’s Day founder Anna Jarvis was born in Taylor County and grew up in Grafton. When Jarvis was less than a year old, her family moved from her birthplace at Webster into Grafton. She was influenced by her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, to devote most of her adult life to establishing Mother’s Day as a holiday and then to defending it against commercialization and other observance trend that were different than her vision for the day and for honoring mothers.
The International Mother’s Day Shrine at 11 East Main Street in Grafton’s downtown historic district is now operated and maintained by a volunteer board of trustees, having been chartered on May 15, 1962. The annual observance of Mother’s Day is the premiere event for this shrine that is dedicated to honoring all mothers.
The annual observance is a traditional service with similarities to the first celebration in 1908 which was a church service at what was then Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church. Mrs. Jarvis had taught Sunday School at the church for close to a quarter of a century. In working to establish a Mother’s Day, daughter Anna recalled that when she was 12, her mom in a Sunday School class on mothers of the Bible had called for someone, sometime, someplace to establish a day honoring mothers. When her mom died in 1905, daughter Anna at the gravesite pledged to fulfill her mother’s wish. She accomplished this goal when President Woodrow Wilson on May 9, 1914, signed a Joint Congressional Resolution officially recognizing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
This year, on Sunday, May 12, the observance of Mother’s Day will continue at the place where it began and the public is invited to attend and participate in honoring mothers and honoring a holiday whose roots are in the hills of West Virginia but whose reach has spread international over the last century.